Living Your Gifts and Passion

By: David P. Levin, LPC

Last week, in addition to visiting my children and grandchildren in Colorado, I attended a workshop presented by Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Ft. Collins.

This workshop, “Living with Meaning and Purpose in Your Life,” had a different focus. It was not about supporting others in loss, but about maximizing our gifts in view of the limitations of our days. We have only so much time; how will we best use it to bring benefit to those around us?

In one exercise we drew a line to represent our lifespan. We placed a hash mark to indicate our current age, or position, on the timeline. I’m nearly 70, and my parents both lived well into their 90’s, so I made my hash mark at about the 3/4 point. Then Alan told us to place our end date at age 78, because that’s the average U.S. lifespan now. Ignore health, genetics, luck, and self-care; 78 is what we got for this exercise. Most of the 36 of us in the room were past the halfway mark, some of us very close to the mark. The point was to re-evaluate our lives with a sense of urgency and recognition of the reality of time.

I, however, did not take this negatively. My perspective is not that 80% of my life is in the rear-view mirror, but that I have 100% of my remaining time ahead. The experiences and learning of the past have formed me into who I am today. As a therapist and writer, I see myself in my prime years now. I make it my personal responsibility to use each day well, or as Kipling wrote in the poem “If”, it is to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.”

I gave a short presentation on Ikigai, a Japanese term for “one’s purpose in life.” I have used this on occasion with clients, and it complemented the workshop material. Below is one version of the Ikigai template: