Formation / Theology

Embracing Your Vocation for the Second Half of Life

“No one can keep you from the second half of your own life except yourself. Nothing can inhibit your second journey except your own lack of courage, patience, and imagination. Your second journey is all yours to walk or to avoid.”                      (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward)


Recently I had multiple meaningful experiences with friends old and new who happen to be retired. Each of them seem to be thriving in their current life stage. One retired from owning a preschool, another as a business owner and educator, a third as a Catholic Priest. In our conversations they share about life happenings, their hobbies, and they particularly center on the experiences that bring them meaning. Two of the three I have known for several years now and have watched them before they were considering retirement. Now, I notice how the content of their lives has changed some with their altered work schedules. What has not changed is the purpose with which they live.

Their rootedness in what is more than their work-life, their family, or even their travel reveal a thread of something that seemed to be formed much before they approached retirement. It shows up in the way they are unhurried, lacking much regret, have a good wit in their story-telling, and are engaged in a way I find hard to match in my demeanor. After being with them I feel more whole, grateful for the impression they continue to make on me and many others as well. 

Retirement does not seem to phase their outlook or way of being with people. They are not thrown off by the transition out of productive and performance roles. In fact, it almost seems like they seamlessly moved into retirement, subbing in as needed and mentoring those who are coming behind them on occasion. While they continue to influence others, they chose to step into retirement for various reasons (health, calling, choice), letting go of what was to reimagine their preferred future. 

Taking time to imagine our future, especially how we will create meaning for our lives beyond our career, requires courage. In my interviews and coaching experience, some leaders are unwilling to let go of their role due to the need to leave a legacy. I have also met with those who cruised into retirement, expecting it to fill the voids they felt during their working years.   

The key issue has little to do with retirement and much more to do with who we are and how we are finding meaning, regardless of our life stage. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, frames the whole of life as being motivated by a need for meaning and purpose. In Frankl’s well-known book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he explains, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” 

The second half of life merely poses a new opportunity for engaging questions around our meaning and purpose. If we do not have an understanding of how our pain, values, and vision come together to bring healing for the world, even if for the small circle we inhabit, disillusionment, mid-life crisis, and a general sense of hopelessness tend to creep in. 

One striking observation I have made is how many people struggle to find or maintain a sense of purpose post-career. There is a perception that as people age or retire their value and voice diminish. The desire to stay in a role because of the continued worth ascribed to a person, especially when they have a platform such as preaching or teaching, can be such an ego loss that any other form of identity outside their career is a total loss of meaning. In my role as a pastor, and then as a director of programs that have supported and coached pastors for over fifteen years, I have personally witnessed many pastors and Christian leaders unwilling to replace themselves with younger leaders, and thus, unwilling to mentor those leaders.


The second half of life merely poses a new opportunity for engaging questions around our meaning and purpose. (1/2) Click To Tweet

If we do not have an understanding of how our pain, values, and vision come together to bring healing for the world, even if for the small circle we inhabit, disillusionment, mid-life crisis, and hopelessness tend to creep in. (2/2) Click To Tweet


In my own life, I had to reconcile whether being a pastor was my whole identity when leaving a ministry position for an unknown future. The crisis of identity prompted me to clarify my deeper sense of calling, connected to my lived experiences, my own life losses, and how I hoped to see redemption and healing for not just myself but others. From my search for meaning, I recognized that being a ‘pastor’ or having a particular career was too small of a container for my life purpose. 

Embarking on a vocational journey involves more than figuring out a job; it’s about discovering our purpose and aligning our work with our values and passions. This can be applied to any life stage, such as motherhood or retirement. Our purpose does not come within the stage, it comes from our sense of calling, divinely shaped by God. 

While the Bible only minimally mentions retirement in particular (There is only one small passage in Numbers 8:24-26, reserved for the Levitical priests), scripture does have an overarching theme of living a meaningful life throughout the whole of our earthly existence. In not conforming to our culture, our meaning does not come from our career or our possessions. Both Isaiah (Isaiah 43:6) and Peter (1 Peter 2:9) call us to glorify God and fulfill our unique roles, emphasizing the timeless relevance of purposeful living.


One striking observation I have made is how many people struggle to find or maintain a sense of purpose post-career. There is a perception that as people age or retire their value and voice diminish. (1/2) Click To Tweet

The desire to stay in a role because of the continued worth ascribed to a person, especially when they have a platform such as preaching or teaching, can be such an ego loss that any other form of identity loses meaning. (2/2) Click To Tweet


As myself and our Leadership Center team support individuals in creating a vision for their second half of life, we invite them to reflect on their work-life experience, assess their vision and values, craft a personal legacy statement, and gain clear direction and inspiration for the journey ahead. 

One of our coachees, Betty, shared recently how she has a sense of purpose that transcends retirement and reminds me of my already retired friends:

“At 60, my young spirit is still seeking new opportunities to learn and grow, new opportunities to be challenged and to challenge and empower others to fulfill their own potential. Each year passed has been filled with new experiences, new insight, and deeper understanding. How could one set these aside? I want to use these learnings as a light to help others find their way. If these truly are the Golden Years, then I feel an obligation to invest in them wisely. Retirement? I’m just getting started.”


*Editorial Note: Trisha and the team at the Leadership Center are facilitating a Vocation for the Second Half of Life course that begins on Thursday, May 23rd. Sign up to embark on a journey of self-discovery, growth, and fulfillment! ~CK


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Trisha Welstad founded the Leadership Center in 2012, holds a doctorate in Leadership from Portland Seminary, and has over two decades of experience as an ordained pastor and coach. Her diverse background includes executive leadership, teaching at various levels, grant writing, and promoting thriving communities locally. Trisha’s vision for the world centers on empowering individuals to embrace their identities and callings, fostering collaborative and sustainable relationships across all aspects of life. Follow her work @trishawelstad and @leadershipcenter.co.


Embarking on a vocational journey involves more than figuring out a job; it's about discovering our purpose and aligning our work with our values and passions. This applies to any life stage, such as motherhood or retirement. (1/2) Click To Tweet

Our purpose does not come within a particular stage; it comes from our sense of calling, divinely shaped by God. (2/2) Click To Tweet


 

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