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Savor Your Work By Working With a Sense of Purpose

By Karma Kitaj, PhD

Are you ready to create a life of meaning and purpose in the next stage of your life? Have you, like many of us, worked in a job or career that gave you and your family a decent income, that pleased your parents, or that seemed practical and logical for you when you entered the job market?

Perhaps you are in your 50s or 60s and need to or want to continue to earn money and be productive in the work world, but you surely don’t want to do what you did for the last decades. You want to work at something that gives you a sense of purpose, something that gives you that feeling when you get up in the morning, that the day will be full of possibility and challenge. Of “savoring” and “saving,” as executive coach Richard J. Leider wrote in his books, The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work and Something to Live For: Finding Your Way in the Second Half of Life.

Savoring and saving: what is that about? Savoring is about tasting and relishing the subtle nuances of the present moment. It is about being here now, available with all of your senses, to be with the work that you’re doing. Whether it is about teaching computer skills to people your age who are not computer literate, working with your hands to build houses, teaching a yoga class, administering health care to poor children, or starting your own ebusiness, you want to savor the moment. You no longer want to be on automatic, going through the motions of rote activities that you could do in your sleep. You want to feel alive, vital, and exuberant. You want to keep learning new things. You want to get out of your comfort zone. Savoring the moment is half of what will get you there.

What is the other half? Leider would say that “saving,” as in saving the world, or doing your little piece to make the world better, will give you that complete sense of satisfaction and fulfillment… when combined with savoring.

Lois Krasilovski, whom I wrote about in a recent blog post (see www.RetirementAsYouWantIt.com) is a woman who excelled as a realtor and developer in the heyday of real estate. She savored the lifestyle she could provide for herself and family because of the long days she put into her work. She loved looking at new houses, showing them to prospective buyers, finding just the right match, and investing in buildings. She was successful because she was passionate about what she did. As she got older, she realized she wanted to add the dimension of “saving” to her savoring. In 2008 she started her own organization to assist poor people to build and rebuild their own houses. She and a group just returned from her first self-initiated journey to one of the poorest sections of New Orleans, the 9th Ward, a neighborhood that was forgotten by the government. Lois’s group participated, hands-on, with the local people to rebuild their community.

Giving back to the world, being of service, “put your whole self in… that’s what it’s all about” as in that old song, “Doing the Hokey-Pokey,” is something that, combined with savoring the moment, is what will give you “something to live for,” wrote Leider in his new book by that name. Putting your whole self into what you’re doing, he suggests, is about finding ways to make an impact on your community or on society by your work, by the way you live every day.

What kind of work can you do next that is going to express your vision of who you truly are, of what your life purpose is?

Leider suggests doing an “Annual Purpose Checkup,” which I’ve elaborated upon here. Take this self-test by answering Yes, Partially, or No Way. See if there are changes you’d like to make as you respond to each of these statements. See to what extent you are remaining healthy in your spirit and what you need to do to make your next “work” more consonant with your purpose.

  • I work at what I love to do, either for remuneration or pro bono.
  • My daily choices are driven by a strong sense of purpose, my personal reason for being, my way of savoring and saving the world.
  • I am wholehearted (put my whole self in) and authentic in savoring the moment in my actions and words.
  • There is a clear alignment between what I say my priorities are and how I spend my time. I walk my talk.
  • I invest time in making a difference to others in the world, whether it be my family, friends, my co-workers, the person on the street, or the larger community.
  • I put my whole self into all that I do. I don’t hold back because of laziness, apathy, avoidance, worry, fatigue or any other reason.
  • I know what I want to be remembered for and I express that daily in my actions and words. I’m creating the legacy I want to leave.