Steve Prefontaine once said: “Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.”
But, what is self-satisfaction? And can we even measure it? As you approach your so called “retirement”, do you consider yourself satisfied? Based on my published research of the main success factors impacting individuals entering and transitioning to secondary opportunities after successful primary careers, I came to the conclusion that the old outdated definition of retirement per se is not necessarily valid anymore. Nowadays, individuals approach retirement not as the end of something with the “I am done” mentality, but instead as the beginning of something new with a transformed “what now” mindset. There are various secondary employment opportunities – and not all of them have to include a paycheck. We erroneously believed for decades that financial stability is all that matters when approaching third age transitioning. Well, this is a big mistake.
What really matters the most is understanding what our passions are, our purpose, what really motivates us to get out of bed in the morning. This is a full transitioning process, and it starts with you, and your willingness to reflect on ‘what you did when you were best’. You now know who you have become, what you want and that you can do it. Now it’s time to go for it – and find out how to get there. The question is: how do you measure your “self-satisfaction” level? And most importantly, how do you redefine your purpose and approach the transition into your next chapter the right way?
Since its introduction in 1985, the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) has been heavily used as a measure of the life satisfaction component of subjective well-being. Its scores have been proven to be a good predictor of an individual’s behavior and future wellbeing. How does it work? The assessment per se is very simple and straight forward (although highly reliable, for those of us who are “data geeks”), and with five short questions it is able to tell you whether you are satisfied or not with your life.
Well, this is very promising. Now let me ask you one simple question: what does the term “satisfied” mean? There’s a very good chance that my definition of satisfied is different from yours, his, hers, theirs – you know the drill. So, how do we interpret our results? And why is this so relevant to you? There are a few things to keep in mind while reflecting on life satisfaction, and when taking the short assessment.
First and foremost, try to define the idea of life satisfaction in your own mind: some of us might compare our own life to those unlike us, while others might use it as a realistic comparison of what could happen to people like them. Second, we have to find the accurate balance between expectations and reality. Are we interpreting life satisfaction as our ultimate expectation? Or, are we really reflecting on our current state of being? Last but not least, there is a need to connect the idea of life satisfaction to a sense of meaning. We all need meaning, completing the SWLS is the perfect opportunity to reflect on yours, if you have never stopped for a second to actually do so.
For all these reasons, SWLS represents much more than a simple five item inventory that assesses a person’s well-being. This is a tool that opens the door to explore what really matters to people, going well beyond the concept of life satisfaction itself. It’s about finding your purpose, whatever that means for you and to you. It’s about finding what fulfils your life, your goals, and your passions. Fulfillment means something different for each of us. It may be hard to define, but you know when you feel it. Fulfillment comes from anything that makes you feel happy, alive and complete. It’s how you feel when you are in your zone.
A wise man once said “You don’t stop learning when you grow old; you grow old when you stop learning”. When thinking about your next phase or your next chapter, whether it’s from a personal or professional standpoint, you should strive for what puts you “in your zone” and make the decision to be happy with your life.
Helping people transitioning and enabling individuals to find their best path after exiting their primary career has been my passion for years now, and if it is something that’s relevant to you, I invite you to contact me. Let’s explore your next stage together. Through my transition program, I help individuals navigate their next chapter, break the stereotype of retirement and the mental barriers that impede the discovery of true passions.
Dr. Ylenia Ossola