MetLife: Meaning and Purpose are Keys to 'The Good Life'

Discovering what Matters: Balancing Money Medicine, and Meaning was released in January 2009 by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

A new survey found that mature adults of all ages and financial status ranked meaning in life above money, medicine and place in defining what makes up "The Good Life" - a powerful indicator of the strong appeal of encore careers for individuals 45 and older.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute's study, Discovering what Matters: Balancing Money, Medicine and Meaning, found that older adults tend to describe “the Good Life” in terms of being healthy, having financial freedom, and having the time to do what is important to them.

Distributing a set amount of "life points" among 13 activities that they expected to participate in five years from now, people regardless of age (ages 45 to 54, 55 to 64 and 65 to 74) or financial status gave more points to "meaning" than to "money," "medicine," or "place." Meaning-related activities include being with friends and family and enjoying personal interests.

"Enjoying personal interests" is a major key to encouraging long-tenured encore careers - whether they be paid or unpaid. If Anne, for example, enjoys gardening, how could she be engaged in a local community gardening effort? Or if John, a small business owner, loves to share his business experiences, how could he be engaged in a local high school business class or community college as an adjunct teacher or guest speaker?

The model of The Good Life, developed by author and life coach Richard Leider, includes aspects such as working to generate a satisfactory salary from a full- or part-time job, helping to make things better for others, and using your abilities to accomplish things that matter. The older the person, Leider found, the more he or she tends to focus on incorporating meaning-laden activities in his or her life.

To take advantage of these findings, employers would be wise to do better marketing of meaningful and purpose-laden activities, including job descriptions that creatively and successfully tap into the desire to do work that has meaning and a positive world impact.