How I Found My Passion and Purpose in Retirement
Passion and purpose are essential aspects of personal development and a balanced life. They say if you are passionate about your work, you never work a day in your life. And certainly, if you have purpose, it gives you a reason to get out of bed every day with a healthy mindset.
I’ve written a bit about passion and purpose in other articles, but I’ve never written about why it is important to me, or how passion and purpose is an important part of this website. I think it’s time to share with you how my website came to be — it could help others who are at a turning point in life.
My story is not just for people who have retired. It is also for people who are seeking to make changes in their lives, or even those who might be forced to make changes due to unforeseen circumstances.
This article will help you understand how to connect with your passion and purpose to gain meaningful fulfillment in life. It may require redefining your personal growth plan but it’s certainly possible to make adjustments in life! We do it all the time!
So let me tell you how I found my passion and purpose in retirement!
How I Found My Passion and Purpose in Retirement
Prior to retirement, I was a career educator. I was passionate about working with students who were at-risk for learning challenges and not completing high school. I went on to become a special educator and a school administrator.
I worked with many disadvantaged students who didn’t have support at home. In fact, many students didn’t have anyone at home to cook meals, wash their clothes, or help with homework.
I was the only teacher in the school who scheduled a field trip for the students — but I didn’t have parent volunteers to chaperone so I recruited my mother and mother-in-law to go to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. with my second and third grade students. We had a ball! It was unlike anything the students had experienced in life until that day!
What is Passion?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the meaning of passion as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something; a strong liking or desire for, or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.
Passion is associated with your emotions, and what keeps you motivated and excited. It’s what gives you warm fuzzy feelings and smiles in your heart. And interestingly, it’s connected to your natural talents, desires, and abilities. Passion helps boost your productivity, success, confidence, and empowerment in work and life.
I was always passionate about making a difference in the lives of at-risk children. What are you passionate about?
What is Purpose?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the meaning of purpose as the reason why something is done or used; the aim or intention of something; the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something; the aim or goal of a person; what a person is trying to do, become, etc.
Purpose is connected to your reason for living — it’s how you measure your success and impact. It gives you a direction in life and helps you understand the reason you are who you are, do what you do, and become what you are meant to be.
With purpose, you will be living with conviction and your life will become more meaningful.
My purpose quickly became being an advocate for students who didn’t have anyone else advocating for them. What is your purpose in life?
The Difference Between Passion and Purpose
In some ways, these two important words are similar. And in fact, they go hand-in-hand and complement each other. But passion is an emotion and purpose is a motivator.
Passion is what makes you happy — what brings you complete joy internally — in your heart and soul. It may change over time, but it’s a powerful emotional response that brings you happiness.
Purpose is what gives you a reason for being — what impact you want to have on the world — how you want to make a difference to others. Purpose is what fuels you to keep going and doing what you love. It gives you focus.
People who meet with success in life generally understand the importance of passion and purpose in their lives. Passion is your what and purpose is your why. Passion is for you and purpose is for others.
Passion and purpose are equally important in your life. Without passion, life would lack excitement and emotion. Without purpose, life would be aimless and without direction. Both passion and purpose are vital to living your best, most authentic, and successful life.
I applied my passion and purpose in life to a 30+ year career in education advocating for others and trying to make the world a better place for people with disabilities.
Understanding My Passion and Purpose
The Early Years of My Career
I became an advocate for students early in my career. (I don’t even want to admit that I started teaching in 1981 — but there you go:) I started my career in a very disadvantaged and unsafe area along the Washington D. C. border of Maryland. I learned quickly that I needed to adjust my lesson plans to accommodate these 7-9 year olds who had no role models who valued education.
I needed to figure out how to motivate these children and make learning fun! I wanted desperately to give them opportunities that they did not have every day. I got very creative in my teaching and gave every single child praise and encouragement — even on the no-so-good days!
Moving On in My Career
After some years, I became certified in Special Education and moved to a new school system. Here, I became a strong advocate for meeting the needs of students with special needs and differing abilities. I developed Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) with the specific needs of each child in mind based on the laws of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
I was not always popular among teachers and county-level staff because I advocated so strongly for what each child was entitled to under IDEA. And sometimes those services and supports were costly and time-consuming. But I advocated nonetheless. Parents were very appreciative to have an advocate working in the best interesting of their child.
Learning More About Passion and Purpose in my Career
At this point, my passion and purpose were well-established and I decided to go into school administration where I was hoping to make more of a difference in the lives of at-risk and special education students.
It was during these years that I served as the Maryland State President of the Learning Disabilities Association; I was the Maryland State Christa McAuliffe Fellow and helped develop programs to retain quality teachers; and I became Nationally Board Certified as an Exceptional Needs Specialist. I often spoke at national conferences and universities to promote educational advocacy for at-risk and special needs students. I was named the Maryland Special Educator of the Year and recognized for my many accomplishments toward improving education for special needs students.
When I was completing a Masters Degree in Human Resource Development and Educational Leadership, I discovered WHY I am so passionate about advocating for students.
We completed a variety of leadership and personality assessments during the program and I learned that I am a NURTURER and Service-Oriented Leader. I am intuitive, innovative, creative, empathetic, and social (Myers-Briggs Personality Test – ENFP). I fight for the underdog and see what’s possible in the future. I believe we can make change in the world! It didn’t matter which personality test we completed, they all pointed in the same direction and identified my strengths in a similar manner.
So, I came to clearly understand the theories behind my passion and purpose and why I felt so strongly about helping people and making the world a better place.
Passion and Purpose in my Retirement
After a head injury, I developed PTSD, Post-Concussive Syndrome, and Post-Traumatic Vision Syndrome. I had to stop working very suddenly and spent years going to a variety of therapies and doctors all over the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area.
Sadly, I was unable to return to work and eventually retired. I have not ever regained the ability to return to my job as a School Administrator because of a brain injury. In fact, I need help functioning in the areas of processing, memory, recall, verbal communication, and executive functioning.
I live with a headache every single day; my husband has had to take over our finances and other responsibilities; I utilize lists and organizational strategies for remembering how to make simple meals and take a shower; I can no longer attend events at my grandchildren’s schools because of PTSD; I can no longer drive on major highways because of processing deficits; I am unable to travel alone anymore; I have significant sleep problems and nightmares. My life changed dramatically and significantly.
But, I continued to have my passion for nurturing and helping others, and making the world a better place! Plus, I needed to find a purpose in life! Otherwise, I would still be hiding under a rock (aka: my bed with the covers pulled over my head) and doing nothing but being dragged to therapies and doctors.
Enter the idea of a website…
How I Found My Passion and Purpose: Let’s WRITE!
I’ve been a proficient writer since I was a child. I’ve always kept journals and diaries, and wrote long stories and manuscripts. It’s always been a favorite hobby of mine. Similar to people who like to read, I like to write!
So while pondering WHAT I could do with my new life as a disabled adult with PTSD, Post-Trauma Vision Syndrome, and Post-Concussive Syndrome — something I could do from home and something I could do on my own time when I was able to function fairly well — I came up with the idea of developing a website and blog for personal growth and development!
I knew NOTHING about blogging. I had built websites for my work, but they were not dynamic websites that changed often.
I started researching how to develop a website and blog; I found people to help me with the design of the website and people who could help me with the back-end of the website (the technical stuff).
I got people to proofread for me and bought large screen computers and set accessibility features. I found people to help me learn how to use social media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get readers to your website.
Before long, I had a purpose in life again! With lots of help, I am able to use my life experiences to help and nurture others who are facing challenges or obstacles and need to redefine their personal growth to create a new life! Just like I did!
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And, I am blessed to have passion and purpose in my life again! Without it, I was lost and empty. I was suffering more than imaginable because of the physical and emotional challenges from my head injury.
I did not develop my website for profit — I developed it to give me passion and purpose in life again! After 4 years, I have adjusted my life, with my husband, in ways I could never have imagined.
I reflected on my passion for helping others, and I contemplated opportunities that could give me purpose in life again. The website and blog was perfect! I do it when I am capable, and when possible, I am motivated to get out of bed again because of my passion and purpose.
Final Thoughts: How To Find Your Passion and Purpose
If you are facing a challenging time, or a new path in your journey of life — whether it be expected or unexpected — please keep in mind the importance of PASSION AND PURPOSE in your life. Don’t let others or your life circumstances define you. You can survive hard transitions in life!
You know what brings you joy. You know what gives you pleasure and how to put that pleasure to good use to give you purpose. It may not be what you’ve done for 30 years, or even 5 years, but you have the power to adjust and change.
Utilize your passions to define your purpose — and keep an open mind about how that can be accomplished! Five years ago, I would never have imagined having a website that helps thousands of people each month with their personal growth and development.
The key to finding joy and peace of mind in life, and overcoming obstacles is finding your passion and purpose in life. And, maintaining a positive mindset regardless of circumstances.
If you need more inspiration, check out 29 FIND YOUR PATH Quotes: Amazing Inspiration for Your Journey Through Life. There are many words of wisdom to help with any life transition!
Remember the tag line for Sassy Sister Stuff — redefining personal growth at any age or stage of life! That’s what I was forced to do due to unforeseen circumstances, and I proudly did it with the support of many people in my life! You can do it, too!
Love to All! ~ Susan