The Midlife Pursuits Series: Midlife Pursuit of Purpose
I never really felt like I knew my purpose in life. I never felt like I had a passion for anything. Until I had my first child. At that point, I finally felt like I had a purpose… But I knew that it wouldn’t last forever. I remember rocking my daughter in the rocking chair in her baby room and crying as I thought about her leaving and going off to college. Yes, she was a newborn and these were my thoughts.
It was emotional for several reasons. I was feeling a love like I had never felt before. I didn’t want to ever lose that feeling. I also didn’t want to think of this precious baby going off into the world without me. But there was also the feeling that I would be alone. What would I do if I didn’t have this baby? I would, once again, have no purpose.
Fast forward 18 years and it happened. She did go to college…but it wasn’t too bad – I still had her brother at home. Of course in two years, he’d be leaving as well.
I started thinking about me. It happened gradually. I began doing things that actually put ME first.”
During those two years, something else happened. I started thinking about me. It happened gradually. I began doing things that actually put ME first. The progression happened sort of like this:
Taking care of my physical health
First, I became a nonsmoker. I had smoked for too many years. There were some successful attempts to quit but also many many that failed. The last thing I tried was listening to the audio book Allen Carr’s The Easy Way for Women to Stop Smoking and it worked for me! I haven’t wanted to go back and that was almost 4 years ago!
Then, I made a decision that I would no longer avoid my weight issue. Over a period of probably 15 years, I consistently added pounds. It came to a point during this time that I knew I could NOT keep going this way.
I started paying attention to calories so that I knew how much to consume in order to get to a weight in which I felt comfortable with myself and healthier overall. I lost about 1-2 pounds per week for a total of 50!
Knowing that a healthy lifestyle includes much more movement than I was getting, but never a fan of exercise, strenuous activity, or sweating, I decided to try an aquacise class. I also started a yoga practice by joining a group at the office and following Yoga with Adriene at home.
These activities, although not extremely strenuous or time consuming, have strengthened my muscles and improved my stamina immensely.
I was feeling SO MUCH BETTER by this point!!!
Taking care of my mental health
I had been on antidepressants and had attended group therapy for many years, but had never gotten to a point where I felt good about my overall mental health. My go-to responses to things that made me feel uncomfortable were:
- Reacting to difficult situations with a defensive attitude.
- Becoming completely overwhelmed, emotional, and even “paralyzed” when I didn’t get the self care I needed.
- Taking things personally and not setting appropriate boundaries (didn’t even know what this meant).
- Spiraling into negative thought patterns when I was hurt and allowing my ego to have all the say/control.
Looking back, I guess I would call it a “low grade” depression or what is professionals refer to as dysthymia. I just assumed I wasn’t someone who could be happy like other people.
That wasn’t true. I had heard that meditation could help with depression, but didn’t fully believe or understand how. Until I took a class online from FutureLearn: Mindfulness for Well Being and Peak Performance. And, I started practicing meditation – not regularly, but I eventually got to a point of several times per week.
And, guess what? A few months ago, it hit me – I realized that I am no longer depressed!!! So, yeah that was HUGE!
Prioritizing my Overall Well Being
Since I began feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally, I was able to see more clearly. The so-called fog was clearing. I think the best thing was feeling that I had control of my circumstances and that I could change things in my life to increase my happiness.
Perhaps it was feeling better physically; perhaps it was confidence from feeling like I looked better; perhaps it was the momentum from actually seeing myself achieve goals; perhaps it was the sense of calm that I was feeling more and more often.
It was likely all of these things combined that lead me to wanting more and believing that I could actually have more – that it was in my control.
Finding a New Purpose
With this newfound confidence combined with gratitude and a sense of peace, I was able to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was able to find another purpose, other than being a mom. Through journaling, meditation, and research, I found that I could help others through this blog thing.
I began setting goals, building skills that would help me create an online business, and just opening my mind to possibilities and the opportunities that are everywhere.
In my pursuit of purpose, I have gathered lots of resources in a toolbox that I believe can also help you find your purpose.
Four Ways to Help You Find Your Purpose in Midlife
Writing can be a great way to find things in which you have an interest. Things that I did (and still do) include:
- Journaling – this helps me get all those thoughts out of my head, see some patterns or things that are resurfacing, and reflect on things that I’ve learned.
- Making notes and writing down things that came to me (while driving, reading, or listening to a podcast).
- Brainstorming ideas of things that I could blog about (doing a brain dump and making lists).
- Writing down my goals – big goals even (that can be a bit scary). I have come to the point that I believe that goals and dreams are so important! (They can be achieved and “come true!”)
There are so many books on the topic of finding your purpose or your “why” or what you are passionate about. Some really good ones are:
- Braving the Wilderness by Brene’ Brown
- Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck
- Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup
- Any book by Tony Robbins
Bloggers have their own amazing stories and their own unique ways to help you find your purpose too. Some of the blogs I’ve followed in this niche are:
I don’t have a long commute to my day job, but when I’m in the car going to and from work, I always listen to a podcast (or an audiobook). It’s my time to gather insights, learn something new, or to feel connected to others in the world.
I find myself saying, “oh, hey, I’m like that,” or “I do that too!” I can recommend a ton of podcasts for inspiration in finding your purpose. Here are a few to which I currently subscribe:
- Do It Scared: Ruth Soukup talks to guests about ways to “Face your fears, overcome obstacles, and create a life you love.”
- Women in the Middle: Suzy Rosenstein’s podcast focuses on how to love your life after 50. She has amazing tips and insight!
- The Adult Chair: Michelle Chalfant, a therapist who is so relatable and down to earth, talks with guests about a variety of healthy living topics!
- Untangle is the podcast from Meditation Studio, which “introduces you to real people with extraordinary stories, along with experts who have devoted their lives to helping others through meditation.”
- Being Well: Dr. Rick Hanson and his son “teach you how to increase your everyday happiness, build inner strengths, and get the most out of life.”
In addition to listening to your favorite thought leaders, guided meditations are another resource for helping find your purpose. The guided meditation app I use is Insight Timer and I have bookmarked quite a few teachers, including:
- Bethany Auriel-Hagan
- Meg James
- Al Jeffery
- Fleur Chambers
- Tomek Wyczesany
And one other thing that can really help is listening to your own intuition. ← Very Important!
4. Learning/Skill Building
Building your skills in areas that you find interesting, or in areas that will help you get to where you want to be, is huge! During the learning process, new things come up that you may not have thought about or even known about before; these can can spark your interest and lead you on the path to finding your purpose.
One of the skills I have been building is mindfulness. I took two courses on mindfulness, which helped me understand how it can help people feel better, think more clearly, avoid spiraling into anxiety or fear-based thoughts, and how you can literally rewire your brain with so many different practices! I’m seriously amazed by this stuff!
When I was feeling stagnant in my job, I took some classes and began reading more about areas in which I was interested (that related not only to my day job, but also to my interest in blogging), I became more excited about my job and as I acquired new skills and produced more/different/better material at work, my confidence grew. And, my desire to continue to grow and learn increased even more.
You don’t have to “go back to school” to continue to learn or build your skills. There are an infinite number of places online to learn new things. I’ve taken free classes through Coursera, purchased some super inexpensive trainings on Udemy, watched a LOT of training webinars, and invested in some additional courses which are helping me grow my online business. I have plans to also participate in mastermind groups and may even work with a life coach too!
Just as my felt purpose changed from “mom” to “midlife mentor,” your purpose can change too, and not just once, but several times.
Who we are deep down inside will mostly stay the same, but the world is constantly changing and we can’t help but change with it as we continue to pursue new things through Writing, Reading, Listening, and Learning!
What other ideas do you have for finding your purpose in midlife? Comment below and share with us so we can support one another through our midlife pursuits!
If you have any questions or additional thoughts you want to share, you can also send me an email. I would LOVE to hear from you personally!