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Our Greatest Gifts!

Credit: iStock

by Denis Wuestman

Being naturally curious about the definition of purpose, I pursued a greater understanding of this via reading multiple books, discussing it with others and listening to various expert perspectives.

I believe that this topic is even more important as we transition into retirement. A purpose in retirement can make a big difference in how we live our lives. But does it have to be just one thing that defines our purpose? I believe the answer to that is a resounding no, as it can be many things, and is easier to discover then we may think.

The Connection to Meaning

Simply, the pursuit of purpose is related to what makes us happy and what gives our lives true meaning. So let’s examine where we find meaning. In the book “What Color is Your Retirement” Richard Johnson, Ph.D. sums this up well: “Meaning comes from the subjective appraisal that your unique gifts are in fact being expressed in your life”. [i] This is a great description and something all can relate to.

There are many real examples for us to learn from. Here are a few who have expressed their unique gifts in a way that give their lives true meaning:

  • A 91-year-old priest celebrating Mass every day with tremendous energy and spirit. His unique gifts are his wisdom, passion, and interest in helping others.
  • A recently retired tax attorney who is mentoring younger people on the latest changes in the tax laws and how they can help their clients. When he talks about his experiences, he lights up. His unique gifts are his knowledge and charity.
  • The volunteer at an animal shelter who regularly gives her time to help clean animal cages and coordinate activities. Always smiling and dependable, her gifts are her love of animals, willingness to serve others, and kindness.
  • The retired business executive who volunteers to teach underprivileged children how to read. In the earlier part of her career, she was a teacher and enjoyed helping younger people learn. Her gifts are patience, adaptability and helping others.

Discover Your Gifts – Then Share Them

Finding meaning in our lives is simplified by what gives us true happiness. The answer is inside us! We first have to discover our unique gifts and then share them with others.   Here are some kick-starters to help get started:

  • Do you have special skills or talents that you might enjoy sharing with others?
  • Take an inventory or your unique gifts by thinking about your personal strengths as a person. For example, are you funny, patient, helpful, curious, full of wisdom, kind, charitable, forgiving?

It is when you find a way to express these gifts (like the tax attorney, the volunteer and the teacher did) that you allow yourself to connect with your true meaning.   So, you have to decide how and where you will put your gifts to best use.   A gift isn’t a gift until you give it!

The easiest way to begin this journey is to take your personal strengths and share them with others every day. No reason to wait, start now! If you are helpful, then help others do something. If you are patient, then show that patience when someone tests you.

In the spirit of this holiday season, why not express your unique gifts in a way that will connect with others?   This will provide you an opportunity to feel true meaning and could be the greatest gift you can give to yourself and others!

[i] Johnson, R.J. (2006), What Color is Your Retirement. Career Partners International.

Denis can be reached at



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