How is that for a post title. Is it a rhetorical question or do I have an answer? And, what exactly is a "life of significance?" Is it diametrically opposed to a life where "self" is protected and nurtured?
Immediately, here in paragraph number 2, I will state that the question is not rhetorical. I will also note that I don't know if I have the answer. But, it seems like a question or dilemma that should be asked. So, let's see where the discussion takes us.
This potential dichotomy is not one that exists exclusively during the retirement years. Of course, as infants and young children the whole world is about us and our significance. Periods of loud crying and temper tantrums pretty much work to keep mom and dad focused on our wants.
Once we realize that the world is round and big and we are not at its center, hopefully we begin to incorporate the feelings and needs of others into our world view. Sharing, consideration, and compromise are skills that become necessary for our social survival.
If we look at our society over the last decade or two, I could argue that those precise skill sets of compromise, consideration, and sharing are falling into disuse as we age. How else to explain the extreme polarization in our world?
One could make the point that some of us have regressed back into the young child mode of self being the only motivator and "what I want" becomes the mantra. There is no debate that our innate sense of self worth and preservation are powerful motivators. But, if we let those feelings rule all our decisions I contend we (and the world) are the worse for it.
Certainly, one of the most pleasing aspects of my satisfying journey through retirement has been the growth in my need to connect more with others and lend a helping hand when I can. I enjoyed what I did for a living for all those years. But, there was little time or motivation to do much for anyone other than my immediate family. They were my focus and the beneficiaries of my work and thoughts.
For me, retirement has allowed me to see the deficiencies in that approach to life. The freedom of time and change has opened up parts of my self that were well hidden for years. My spiritual growth has made it abundantly clear that I was too self-centered and too concerned with the pleasures of the material world. Family is a blessing, but we are made to do more.
A life of significance is one in which an individual does more than is required, more than is expected, more than is simply expedient. It may mean volunteer work. It may mean using skills from your working years to help others now. It can mean clearing a large chunk of your schedule to be a caregiver for a family member or relative. It could mean getting deeply involved in a cause or subject that moves you or you believe has an importance beyond just yourself.
At the same time, you are nurturing yourself. You are likely to find parts of your character or personality that you didn't know existed. It is certainly probable that you will find a sense of fulfillment and joy that eluded you in the past. You will be more connected to the world around you, becoming stimulated and enriched in a way that would much more difficult if you were isolated and only focused inward.
Please, don't simply accept what you have just read without some serious thought on your part. You may disagree with some (or all) of what has been written. But, if you think about the subject and come to a way forward that works for you, then this post has served its purpose.
Note: did you remember to change your clocks this morning? Daylight Savings Time ended at 2 am Sunday, November 1st.