How should we decide how we should be best spending our time in retirement, either as we look forward to or travel through it? Here’s one model that has worked well for many—see how it works for you.

The simple idea is

  1. to identify what you are passionate about, those things you love to do
  2. to gain clarity on what your strengths are, those things you are great at and have experience doing
  3. to understand what the world needs, whether in your immediate community or beyond, that you can find a way to help with

If you then match the three of those—apply your strengths to something you care about and where they are needed—you will find the “Magic.” This is true at any stage in life, but it is especially true in retirement, when each of us is shifting our energies from our working careers to finding and doing something meaningful with our retirement time and resources.

Retirement life
Rick, a friend and husband of a high school classmate, is a perfect example of applying this approach to finding the magic, giving back to others, and making his life meaningful and fulfilling. Rick is retired from a career in the shoe business in which he traveled the world identifying shoe lines that would be successful.

In retirement, Rick has found the magic in a number of his pursuits. Here are three examples. Rick is an avid bike rider (passion). On one challenging recreational ride, a friend told him about an upcoming bike-ride event that raised money to fund both research and providing access to care for those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (demand). Rick, who is predisposed to say “yes” when it comes to finding ways to help others (passion), agreed to join the bike ride and used his sales skills (strengths) to raise money for his team. He quickly became a fundraising leader. Once involved in the organization (passion), Rick sought other ways to contribute and now advocates (strengths) for legislation, both at the state and national level, to ensure research funding and access to care for those in need (demand).

Rick was also attracted to a nonprofit called Gateway to Hope, whose mission is “secure comprehensive care and provide financial assistance for individuals in need who have been diagnosed with or are at high risk for developing breast cancer.” (demand) Since learning of and committing himself to the organization (passion), Rick has applied his leadership skills (strengths) to be on the Board, take on the role as President, and even for a brief time, to act as the organization’s Executive Director.

An avid photographer (passion), Rick, whose photography business card reads, not surprisingly, “Be passionate about something,” applied his skills and experience (strengths) to document the good work of Camp Rainbow, a camp for kids with cancer and blood disease (demand).

His community is fortunate to have someone with a wide range of passions, strengths, and experiences, to help meet the long list of needs. And the community is fortunate that Rick constantly looks for opportunities to give back and is predisposed to say “Yes” when he sees the need.

What are you passionate about? Children? Education? Is a loved one battling a disease that you care deeply about fighting? Are you passionate about your family, your friends, your community? Sports? Politics?

What are you great at? Don’t underestimate the skills you’ve developed over the years. Is Rick involved in the shoe business in retirement? No. Is he using his leadership and sales skills to influence others, whether donors or legislators, to act? Yes.

What does the world around you need? You can learn more about this at your church, synagogue, or mosque. You can learn more at your local United Way. You can learn more by talking with friends about what they are doing. The key is to learn more—the opportunities to make a difference are out there.

Don’t underestimate your skills and experience. And don’t underestimate how fulfilling it can be to match your passions with your strengths with what the world needs. That’s where the magic happens for both your community and for you.