Give Your Life Meaning

No posts until next Tuesday. I’m taking a little vacation. In the meantime I will leave this article I read today. While it is about retirement, I think even if you are in your early twenties it is still something to consider. Every now and then I get opportunities to try something with a little more security, but I haven’t found anything in work that gives me more meaning than being a paramedic. Not that that is enough to sustain a person. You need meaning in more than just your work. I’ll be thinking about that this week while I’m having a beer with my feet up. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Give Your Life Meaning


‘New Retirement’ asks: ‘Got dreams?’
Discover the meaning of life, or nothing matters, not even money
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Last Update: 7:24 PM ET Dec 11, 2006

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) — What’s the only thing you really need to get “right” in retirement? Get right, or nothing matters? This message isn’t just for retirees. It’s for boomers, young investors starting a career and family, folks in midlife crisis. Some day we all stop and ask: What’s really, really important?
What’s the big question mark in retirement? Health? Maybe family? Security? Money? I’ll bet Wall Street’s got you convinced that all your fears boil down to one thing, money. Got money? Got no problems! Right? Wrong!

So what really, really matters in retirement? OK, so it’s not money or security. Nor health, a loving spouse, teaching the kids right. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all important. But none of them will ever matter much if you don’t get this one thing right.

To understand it, let’s put it in context: Look at the old versus “new retirement,” compare 1969 to today. Not Vietnam versus Iraq; I’m talking “Easy Rider!”

Dennis Hopper is a great pitchman: He’s come a long way from his get-rich-quick days chasing the great American Dream in “Easy Rider.” Remember the night before Hopper’s character gets killed. After a big score, he’s telling his buddy Peter Fonda: “We did it. We’re rich, man. We’re retiring in Florida. You go for the big money, man, and then you’re free.”

Except he didn’t get “it.” The price of his dream was too high, it cost him his soul. And he didn’t even know why. His friend did: “We blew it, good night man.” Next day, he was blown off his chopper by an angry shotgun-totting redneck in a beat-up truck. He went to his grave oblivious. He didn’t “get it.”

Money isn’t “it.” Get-rich-quick isn’t it. Neither is getting rich slowly: All that stuff Wall Street and Corporate America want you to believe about working 30 or 40 years, saving regularly, piling up a hundred thousand, maybe a million or whatever, in IRAs, 401(k)s and lots of retirement accounts. Not it.

Flash forward from 1969: Today Hopper’s got it. And it’s not hard to miss his exuberant reincarnation in the new Ameriprise Financial ads: No more empty dreams of getting rich quick and playing shuffleboard in Florida:
“You still have things to do, right?” Hopper says to new retirees. These ads replace the old “rocking-chair dream” with relaxing beaches, rolling hills of wildflowers, yoga, traveling, stuff you’ve always wanted to do. “You have dreams. And there is no age limit on dreams. The thing about dreams is, they don’t retire.”

You gotta love it! But, there’s a catch: Sure, everybody gets a second chance, but lots don’t take it. Too many are still like Hopper’69, oblivious, never quite getting “it.”

Why? You’ll get a glimpse of the answer in Thomas Stanley’s classic, “The Millionaire Mind:” “Why is it that only a minority of our population love their work?” That’s right, the vast majority of people don’t like what they’re doing before retirement, and they’re not prepared for the second chance, second career, second act.

Then, when it finally happens, you may even retire one of the few who’ve saved enough to announce like Hopper: “I did it. I got the big money. I’m rich, man, I’m free!” Then it’ll hit you, you’ll come face to face with the one and only thing that really matters in retirement … and it’s not money.

Case in point: I was in the career-planning business years ago. I’ve been around miserable megamillionaires. And around people who are broke yet happy, doing what they love in retirement, and before. I’ll bet you know some of both.

A “new retirement” begins with a new attitude. It’s not about money. And it’s also not about being “happy.” Being happy is a by-product of something else.

You must find the “meaning” of life, the meaning of your life. Years ago I was in a midlife crisis, got my first glimpse of the answer in Tony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power:” “Nothing has any meaning except the meaning we give it.” Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl elaborates in “Man’s Search for Meaning:”
“We needed a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

You can have health, friends, family, total security and all the money you’ll ever need, but unless your life has “meaning,” nothing matters. And no one can give “meaning” to your life except you. Not a million-dollar portfolio, not being debt-free, nor tight abs, low cholesterol, nor a famous guru, evangelist or yoga instructor. All that’s irrelevant if you don’t know deep in your soul the meaning of your life.

Only you can ever know whether you’re living a meaningful life or one of quiet desperation. So let’s assume you’re already more like the new rather than the old Hopper. But you’re searching. And let’s forget all the new-age nonsense about “life’s not a rehearsal” and “you only go around once.”

Everyone gets a second chance. We never stop getting chances because “dreams never retire.” When I was helping plan careers, I’d have people spend time covering a wall with a montage of magazine clippings, whatever turned them on (fishing, fashion, golf, travel, music, art, hobbies, you name it), then we’d explore the pattern.
In “The Power Years,” retirement guru Ken Dychtwald suggests making three lists. Go buy a big journal. Write in it every day: First, a list of every job you’ve ever had and what you loved about it. Next, go through your annual budgets, list where you spend your discretionary income. Third, review the key turning points of your life. Get real: Where did your secret dreams take a back seat to your commitments to others, like the kids’ college.

Go on a retreat, to seminars, maybe a spiritual pilgrimage, maybe get the advice of a career counselor. Read about other’s second-act dreams. Take your time. You’re on a journey, explore. Review the lists. Look inside. Trust me, the answers are already in there.

Rediscover your dreams, tap into the meaning of your life. You’ll get all the chances you want this time around because dreams never retire! It’s your life, make it a meaningful life. And when you get it, go for it with passion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *