Richard Leider and David Shapiro’s new book Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Old? The Path of Purposeful Aging invites us to explore purpose. I would argue that this little book is also an invitation to pause and reflect on purpose no matter your age. The authors see purpose as a path of growing and giving. How do you define purpose? If you were on a path of purpose, what would be your trail markers?
I listened to this book while driving cross country. As the miles of Montana and North Dakota clicked by I began to wonder what are the paths of purposeful living for other life chapters?
What words come to mind when you think of purpose for you? What might be milestones on your path of purposeful living? Purpose can be a word that confuses or overwhelms people. You may say to yourself….”I don’t have a purpose” or “I am not a purpose driven person”. Yet, in this time of Covid, I hear many people talking and wondering about purpose.
My sense is that the challenge of identifying purpose is we expect too much. We let the word get too big and it gets away from us. It turns into something we can’t identify because we can’t wrap our arms around it. It dawned on me that perhaps we’ve missed the gift of naming our path of purposeful living because we think it needs to take on grand scale like “make the world a better place”, “fight for social justice” or any other good social cause.
I invite us all to scale down our versions of purpose and think smaller about what it could mean for us. I observed purpose with so many people in different stages of life as I traveled from California to Minnesota to Wyoming and back. Here are a few examples:
1.Multi-Generational Families- I watched grandparents, parents and grandchildren stand together and sit in awe of Lake Superior. Their purpose….to be together and cherish the moment.
2.Paddlers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area- I watched 2 people return from a five day paddle. They landed on the shores of Clearwater Lake and said to me…”we really have not talked to anyone for five days”. Their purpose…to take a pause and experience nature and quiet.
3. A Granddaughter and Son sing the duet Visiting Hours- I wish that Heaven Had Visiting Hours to honor a father and grandfather who had recently passed away. Their Purpose… to give comfort and healing to others.
Leider and Shapiro emphasize the difference between getting old and growing old and purpose as the way to navigate growing old. I believe the bigger message for all audiences is that growing into and with your purpose can happen at any age, at any moment, at any scale. In addition, it will change as you enter your many chapters of life.
I reflected on my purpose as left the upper Midwest. It’s not grand, or bold or big. Put simply, my path for purposeful living is to be kind and compassionate and create calm and peace for myself and others.
What’s your path of purposeful living?