A Step-by-Step Plan For Finding Your Purpose in the Empty Nest

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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empty nester in pink floral top and white skirt standing by a tree thinking about her purpose as an empty nester

What does it mean to find your purpose? After the kids leave the nest, it can be challenging to figure out how life as an empty nester is supposed to look! ???? Without a doubt, raising kids is a sacred calling. It’s meaningful, rewarding work that grabs your heart, gives you purpose, and never really lets you go. You’ll always be a parent. But once the kids have left the nest, it’s normal to think, “What now?”

There are some excellent resources out there that can guide you as you adjust to the empty nest, but once that initial period of grief and adjustment is over, the question remains: What does it mean to find your purpose in the empty nest? Do you want to go back to school? Enter or reenter the workforce? Start your own business? Become a volunteer extraordinaire or cultivate a hobby that you haven’t had time for in the past 18+ years? All of those are valid and meaningful!

I remember thinking, “I guess I’ve got about a third of my life left????. How am I going to make it count?” I know from your emails that many of you have struggled with the same thing. Today we’re going to talk about it, and I’m going to share a step-by-step plan to help you find meaning and purpose in the empty nest.

1. Get to Know Yourself (Again)

When your kids were in the nest, you may not have spent a lot of time on introspection! Between baseball practice, meal prep, and organizing the PTA, let’s face it: your focus was on them. (And that’s a good thing!) But now it’s time to get to know yourself again. You’ll probably find that you’re a very different person than you were before you had kids! Your skill set and passions may have changed significantly!

What are your skills and abilities? What are you good at? Make a list of those things, and even consider getting some input from those who know you best. When I was trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do after our nest emptied, I texted a few close friends and family members (including my kids!) and asked them to describe me in three words. This was very helpful, and even encouraging! (At least, until someone called me “bossy.”)

So often, we don’t see ourselves the way others see us, and figuring out how others view us can provide us with valuable information as we seek to move forward.

empty nester wearing pink floral top looking to the side thinking about how to find her purpose in the empty nest

2. Find Your Passion(s)

What gets your heart racing and your blood pumping? What do you love? What makes you excited? Do you love photography? Singing? Yoga? Research how you could get more involved with what you love. We live in a day and age where information is just a keystroke away! Do a deep dive into Google. It’s a simple place to start.

Next, explore and learn more about what you love. Is there a group you can join, classes you can take, or an “expert” who would be willing to talk with you? Emily Landers, host of the podcast How’d She Do That? recommends “informational interviews.” Be brave and reach out to someone you admire in your area of interest! Chances are, they’ll be flattered, honored, and excited to share their journey with you.

When I started as a blogger (a field populated by twenty- and thirty-somethings????), I did all of those things! I spent hours looking at other blogs, especially those aimed at women over fifty. I love fashion, but I knew I didn’t want to just talk about fashion. I love beauty products, but becoming a beauty blogger didn’t seem purposeful enough for me. Once I was able to hone in on what I really felt passionate about, I found my purpose, and Empty Nest Blessed was born. To this day, that purpose hasn’t changed. I want to bless, encourage, and inspire other women, and I want Empty Nest Blessed to be as multi-faceted as we are as women! That’s why I write about everything from fashion and beauty to cooking for two and parenting adult kids (and more!).

Still, at 50, it’s tough to put yourself back into learning mode! After all, you’re used to being the parentthe person in the know! I learned to humble myself, be brave enough to ask for help, and expect that sometimes I would feel stupid and, well, old. But I also learned that there were so many people who were happy to help and encourage me along the way. (I recently had the opportunity to do an interview about my own empty nest experience and how Empty Nest Blessed came to be. To read it, click HERE.)

 

woman over 50 wearing pink floral top and white skirt

3. Don’t Look Around (Too Much)

There will always be people who are better than you at what you do, and there will always be people who are worse than you. Don’t wait to start until you get things perfect because if you do, you might never start! If something doesn’t work, you can always change it later. Very, very few decisions in life are irreversible! Try not to worry about what others think or what they’re doing. Instead, cultivate a humble heart, stay in your lane, and do things your way. No one has your unique set of gifts, abilities, and passions, and no one will do things exactly like you. Find your specific niche, your unique take on things, or your one-of-a-kind viewpoint, and focus on that.

It probably took you a while to find your purpose, so stay focused on it and press forward!

empty nester in pink floral top and white skirt standing by a tree thinking about her purpose as an empty nester

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4. Persevere

Most things are more difficult and time-consuming than they look. If you want to find your purpose in the empty nest, it will probably mean sticking with something longer than you initially think. Persevere and stick with it! Seek out people who will cheer you on and encourage you in your pursuit. One of my favorite books is Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. She believes that what truly drives success is not “genius” but a combination of passion and long-term perseverance, which she calls “grit.” Her TED talk (below) inspired and motivated me as I sought to find my purpose in the empty nest.

5. Separate Your Worth From Your “Work”

Your “work” is whatever you do that gives your life purpose. I have an empty nester friend who spends hours every day praying and preparing Bible Study lessons to share with other women. That’s her work. I have another who has gone back to school so she can take over the family business when her parents are ready to retire. That’s her work. Others have gotten their real estate licenses, become museum docents, or started jewelry, stationery, or pottery businesses. Each one found meaningful work in the empty nest, but it took time, perseverance, and focus to do it.

As you seek to find your purpose, remember that your worth is not in your work. Your worth is not in doing. Your life has meaning aside from what you do. God gave you unique talents and gifts, and He can call you to different vocations and purposes throughout your life!

When our daughter was little, she had an old, smelly lovey named Mimi. When Becca wanted to go outside and play with her brothers, she would ask me to take care of Mimi for her. Once the door closed behind her, I didn’t throw Mimi on the floor or toss Mimi into a closet somewhere. Mimi’s value was ascribed to her by her owner, who loved and cherished her, and I watched over Mimi and cared for her based on that value, not what I saw when I looked at her.

Your value to your family, your friends, and this world are ascribed to you by your Creator, and He loves you! Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

As you seek to find your purpose in the empty nest, remember that God has prepared them beforehand for you! Work to find your purpose, and identify those good works. Then walk forward with perseverance and focus.

My Story

I recently had the opportunity to share more about how and why I created Empty Nest Blessed on the How’d She Do That? podcast! I talked about how I found my purpose, what it was like to learn to overcome my fears and insecurities, and practically speaking, how I learned the tech aspects of what I do. (Which is pretty hilarious, btw!) You can listen to that episode in one of these places:

  • Click HERE to listen on iTunes Apple Podcasts.
  • Click HERE to listen on Spotify.
  • Click HERE to listen on Anchor.
  • Search “How’d She Do That” anywhere else you listen to podcasts!

Have you found your purpose in the empty nest or are you still working on it? I’d love to know where you are on your journey and what’s been helpful to you! Please leave me a comment and let me know.

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Suzy Mighell

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11 Comments

  1. Amy,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a comment. So sweet of you! I think you are SO smart to be thinking ahead! I started praying and thinking about it right before my first one went off to college – and I was five whole years away from the empty nest. I have some resources on my website that are targeted at “Soon-to-be Empty Nesters” and you might find them helpful. You can access them here: http://emptynestblessed.com/not-yet-empty-nesters/
    Thanks again for your comment. Big hugs to you! xoxo Suzy

  2. Anne, your precious comment made me cry! I couldn’t agree more. With God, all things are possible! I’m so proud of you and the mighty way the Lord is using you as his hands and feet to serve others! You are a great example of an Empty Nest Blessed woman and I’m honored that you are a reader! Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so grateful! Love and hugs to you, sweet Anne. I’m going to be praying for you! xoxo Suzy

  3. Hi Suzy,
    I just finished reading your post and listening to the podcast with Emily and I am grateful for your positivity, honesty and encouragement! Thank you for having the courage to tell your story! You are an inspiration to me everyday! I have just started a blog myself about life with my Pug, Chip and the podcast was a wonderful inspiration to keep working, posting and creating.
    Thank you,
    Robben

    1. Robben,
      I just clicked onto your adorable blog! Chip is the cutest, and I love the things you’re sharing – so fun and practical for so many who love their pups like their kids! Let’s do something together around the holidays with gift ideas for pets, okay? (I always have a section of my gift guide for pets, and I’d love to share the link to yours as well!)
      Keep moving forward with your blog, Robben, and sharing your heart!
      I so appreciate your comment! Thank you!
      xoxo
      Suzy

      1. Suzy,
        I am grateful for the feedback about my blog. I would love to do something together around the holidays.
        Thank you,
        Robben

  4. Hello Sister Suzy!
    Oh my gosh! I just finished listening to your podcast with Emily. I laughed! I cried! I loved! Do you realize that you said, “In the early years…” when referring to your starting Empty Nest Blessed?! Can you believe that your vision now has a HISTORY?! Haha! I’m so very proud of you! I tell ya, when you came through the Theta Rush door, we all knew we had picked a good one!????????. I’m thrilled to still call you my friend!
    I want to call to your attention a woman I recently ran across on Instagram. SOOO inspirational!! Joan MacDonald @trainwithjoan
    Joan is 74 and lives in Canada. She embarked on a fitness & wellness journey at age 70 after “feeling tired of feeling sick and tired.” She had a long list of medical issues, accompanied by all of their medications. Meanwhile, her daughter (Michelle) and son-in-law own and operate Tulum Strength Club, which trains body builders, in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Michelle saw Joan’s declining health and attitude and said, “Mom, enough of this. We’re going to get you in shape.” Joan began her life changing journey at age 70–never having exercised, been athletic, used technology, etc. Her transformation and ongoing adventure is absolutely amazing. Her comments are so positive!! Please look her up. You and I are only in our 50’s. Joan MacDonald makes me feel SOOO much hope for so many fabulous years ahead! Check her out on Instagram at @trainwithjoan
    Love ya!
    Becky Lawler Montgomery

    1. Becky,
      Aw, your comment just made me cry! Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, my precious sister and friend! I’m so grateful for your love and support!
      I just followed Joan! What a doll! Thank you for sharing her account with me!
      Love you! xoxo Suzy

  5. Thanks for the inspirational post. I’m looking forward to watching the Angela Duckworth talk on Grit. At the age of 51 (in 3 weeks) I am heading back to school in a couple weeks–to get my law degree. What a humbling year-long process it has been: studying for the LSAT, applying and interviewing with students the same age as my kids! While I considered law school way back in my college years, what I want to do in the field looks totally different now. And my goals will be shaped by all those years as a Navy spouse and stay-at-home mom. I heartily encourage people to “get to know themselves again.” For me, the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment was the key to learning about my innate, God-given talents and strengths. That helped point me toward finding the purpose I was made for.

    1. Theresa,
      Oh, my word! I am in awe of you!!! Thank you for sharing your inspirational story with us. WAY TO GO, girly! I am so proud of you! You will make an amazing attorney!
      The Clifton StrengthsFinder (https://amzn.to/30yMlFB) is an amazing resource! Thank you for reminding us of it!
      Best of luck to you, precious girl! Know that I’m in your corner cheering you on!
      xoxo Suzy

  6. WOW! This is just what I needed and when I needed it the most. Thank you. I already started asking friends for the three words that describe me. That was fun. What I liked most, was your reference to scripture. I’m now looking forward to regaining my identity, and purpose after motherhood.

    1. Kim,
      I’m so happy you found it helpful! It’s a big transition, for sure! Motherhood is such a precious task, and you’ll find that it doesn’t really end completely – it just morphs into something different! Take your time and be prayerful about what the Lord has for you in this stage of life! he has a plan for you! (Proverbs 16:9).

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a sweet comment!

      xoxo
      Suzy

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