Increasing Your Sense of Purpose (Gratification) in Life

What is gratification? Gratification is a sense of meaning that we gain through concentrated pursuit of a noble or higher purpose.
Examples of gratifying activities include: playing the piano, writing a book, helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity, and creating a beautiful garden.
Gratification is characterized by challenge, goals, feedback, and suspension of the awareness of time and self. When we are pursuing a gratifying activity we are often in a state of flow or total absorption.
Gratification is the opposite of pleasure in that it isn’t fleeting or easy (like eating chocolate or feeling the warm sea breeze on your face). It is hard-won. Gratification isn’t about now, it invests in the future.
This may sound like the hard work you purposely left behind in your career, but even in retirement, we need some hard work or effort in our activities to balance out our pleasurable activities.
I have seen retirees become listless, aimless, and depressed. Often this occurs because they focus all their attention on seeking pleasure and devote little energy toward gratification and higher purpose. As a result, they begin to feel that their lives are meaningless.
In his book, Authentic Happiness Martin Seligman tells us how to increase the gratification in our lives by utilizing our Signature Strengths. He identifies 24 Signature Strengths that fall into six categories:

Wisdom and Knowledge: curiosity, love of learning, judgment, ingenuity, social intelligence, perspective
Courage: valor, perseverance, integrity
Humanity and love: kindness and loving
Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
Temperance: self-control, prudence, humility
Transcendence: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, spirituality, forgiveness, humor, zest

We all have Signature Strengths. You can identify your Signature Strengths by doing one of two things:
Asking yourself, “when I am doing exactly what I want to do?”
Take the free VIA Signature Strengths Inventory which is on the Authentic Happiness website:
I see retirement as a chance for many people to utilize more of their Signature Strengths than they did in their work and child rearing years.
Retirement affords a freedom to pursue new activities that do not have to generate income (or at least not as much income). There is a myriad of possibilities out there, so I help my coaching clients explore ways to utilize their Signature Strengths in their hobbies, avocations, part time work, and/or charity work.
As I look back over my career I can see why I struggled so long to find a kind of work that made me happy and allowed me to be successful. Of course I didn’t know what my Signature Strengths were at the time. Now I know they are:
Love of Learning
Creativity, ingenuity, originality
Social Intelligence
Capacity to love and be loved
Caution, prudence, and discretion
When I was in College I dreamed of being a Technical Editor. When I actually landed the job, I felt restless and isolated. When I look back on it I realize that there was little creativity or learning in this job. I wasn’t using my social intelligence much since I spent the day reading silently. And I wasn’t using my ability to love and be loved, in fact I was hated because I was the one pointing out people’s mistakes. I used a little caution because I was looking for mistakes that could cause a problem. I told myself, the plane could crash if the comma was in the wrong place. This was true, but it wasn’t enough. I felt lethargic and under-utilized.
Later, I intuitively created ways to utilize my Signature Strengths in this job. I started teams to look for ways to increase the quality of the technical manuals we produced. In leading teams I used my creativity, love of learning, social intelligence, caution, and ability to love and be loved. I came alive once I shaped this job to suit my strengths, and suddenly there were five departments that wanted to hire me.
I wish I had known about Signature Strengths when I came out of college. I could have been a lot happier a lot faster, and it would have helped avoid some other unfulfilling careers I tried later on.
Recently my goal has become to match retirees up to activities that utilize their Signature Strengths. My hope is that the benefit will be twofold:
The talent, intelligence, and energy of retirees will make the world a better place (for example, they will create art, literature and music, they will make a difference volunteering, and they will work to resolve community problems). Retirees will remain healthier, happier, and more connected to the world.
I am lucky to find fulfillment in being a Life Coach that helps people be happier and more successful. I hope you will contact me if you or someone you know needs help finding a path toward meaning in their lives.

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