By Caroline Hall
A few weeks ago, Sabrina Roblin and I led a Life Reinspired three-day retreat for a group of high-powered dual-career couples contemplating their next phase of life—both individually and together. (The weekend emerged from a program we designed and deliver regularly to Stanford Business School alumni who are at least 25 years out.) The weekend centered around our 3Ps:
Purpose—Pinpointing the best use of your talents in service of what matters most to you
People—Cultivating relationships with self, partner, family, friends, and community to support you in the next chapter of life
Pleasure—Building a list of desired adventures, relationships, projects, and other elements of a fleshed-out Bucket List, giving you plenty to look forward to
We allotted generous time to explore purpose during the retreat…and the group uniformly wanted more. We define purpose as a combination of the strengths and competencies you most enjoy deploying in service of what you are passionate about. The Blue Zones project—which identifies the common factors that distinguish healthy centenarians around the globe—defines purpose more simply as your reason for getting out of bed in the morning that gives your life meaning.
The talents/strengths/competencies component of purpose tends to remain stable over your lifetime, but the expressions of purpose transform with new circumstances, learning, and passion.
For example, one participant knew from the time she was a little girl that she’d be a physician some day. Jessica Nutik Zitter ended up saving lives in the ICU. After too many experiences resuscitating people with virtually no chance of recovery, though, she became an advocate for “good death” and authored the book Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. Same purpose. Different expression.
It’s essential to revisit and refresh purpose—your own and your partner’s–as you embark on your next stage of life. It’s also critical to carve out time to reflect on the next expression of your purpose. Here’s why: Successful people are much in demand and the state of “not knowing” is uncomfortable. These pressures from the outside in and the inside out mean that, if you don’t use purpose as a compass to help you sort out your “Yesses” and “Noes,” your calendar and brain instantly fill with busy-ness that may or may not relate to what you value most.
Sabrina and I are big fans of carving out interludes of think time and quiet mind practices as “bubble wrap” between bouts of activity; this allows you to ascertain what has the most heart and meaning going forward.
It is hugely satisfying to witness couples clarifying their individual and joint purpose and getting on the same page about designing their next frontier of life and the contributions they want to make. This is big talk, not small talk, and we all need to spend more time thinking and talking about what matters most—to us and to each other.
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