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Finding Your Ikigai and Purpose in Retirement

By Hilary Henderson October 16, 2017 Mindset

This weekend, I had reason to look at the statement “finding purpose in retirement.” It is a statement I find myself using often.

For many, finding purpose points to finding the deep spiritual meaning of life which may not seem relevant when used in the context of retirement. This is why I would like to look at it more carefully.

40 Years at Work Have Given Your Life Structure and Meaning

For somewhere in the region of 40 years, most of us have climbed out of bed with the help of an alarm clock, Monday through Friday, without question. We had varying degrees of enjoyment around the work that enabled us to earn.

These years were mainly income-driven as we climbed the corporate ladder to increase our income, to educate our children and create wealth through investment and the purchase of assets.

Most of us, as we reach our 60s, already have investments that will provide us with some income when we stop working.

For the clear majority of us, however, reaching our 60s in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, this income will not be sufficient to maintain the standard of living to which we have become accustomed.

This leaves us with the following options:

  • Cut our spending, and/or
  • Continue working

If we opt to continue working, we can choose to work full-time or part-time, flexible hours or a set routine. We can also choose to continue working in the field we have known all our lives, or we can step out of that comfort zone and work at something that fires our passion.

Finding Your Reason for Getting Up in the Morning

This brings me to what the Japanese refer to as Ikigai, loosely translated as “your reason for getting up in the morning.”

It refers to the source of value in your life, or the things that make your life worthwhile. If you are supplementing your income in your retirement, you can choose to work at something that fires your passion and ignites your Ikigai.

Ikigai is, essentially, the spot in the middle where the following come together:

  • What you love doing
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can be paid for

The overlap between what you are good at and what you are paid for is your profession. On the other hand, what you are paid for and what the world needs is your vocation or calling.

The point where what you love overlaps with what the world needs constitutes your mission. Then lastly, the combination of what you are good at and what you love is your passion.

Your Ikigai Is the Sweet Spot in the Middle

When these four overlap, they create that sweet spot we call Ikigai – your purpose or reason to get out of bed.

This is an activity that calls you, falls within your skills area, rewards you and ignites your passion. Those who reach this special spot in their working careers will tell you that they never feel like they are doing ‘work.’

Many of us never reach this sweet spot because of the financial pressures. But, in our 60s and 70s, we have the space to reinvent ourselves in the work space as we are now working to supplement our retirement income. We can take into consideration our passion as well as our calling and skills.

A good example is the person who has always worked as an office administrator. They have done a good job because they are organized, systematic and command respect.

It is a job that needs to be done, but it probably does not ignite passion. In retirement, this person could shift focus to help organize events, such as weddings, 60th birthday celebrations, etc.

Here they can be gratified by being part of a special occasion. Depending on how much income is needed, they could pick and choose which events to organize.

One client of mine calculated that it would take two to three weddings per year to cover the expenses of her annual trip to Thailand, which her retirement investment would not allow.

Do you know what would light up your Ikigai? How would you describe your purpose and value in retirement? Please share in the comments below.


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The Author

Hilary Henderson is a Retirement Coach She brings to her coaching her experience as an Occupational Therapist as well as an entrepreneur. Her mission is to help people find relevance, purpose and meaning in their retirement years. Facebook is one way to reach out to her.

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