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Finding your ikigai in retirement

As we face life transitions such as retirement, we often grapple with our purpose; we often equate not having a purpose to not having a personality or reason for living. There is a Japanese concept called Ikigai. In English, it roughly translates to “the meaning of your life.”

Finding your ikigai is a life-long process because it will change as you enter and exit the different stages of your life. As a child, your ikigai is to play and explore; during your school years, it is learning. Once you have finished your formal education, your ikigai is your career and family. But it is often in retirement that one’s ikigai isn’t clear.

A person’s ikigai can be anything: a passion, a dream, a mission, among others. It is something that gives you the reason to get up every morning. It’s what motivates you to keep going and gives you the drive to do something for the pursuit of that ikigai.

Ikigai focuses on four main ideas:

  • What you love (passion)
  • What you are good at (vocation)
  • What you can get paid for (profession)
  • What the world needs (mission)

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 constitute your mission. Then lastly, the combination of what you are good at and what you love is your passion.

Where all four circles intersect is where you will find your ikigai.

The task of finding your ikigai can seem overwhelming, but there are a few tips to help you ignite your purpose.

Pay attention to what you do or think about

Many of the things we dwell on are usually the things we love. If you find that you lose track of time with something you’re thinking about, you’re interested and engaged, and that makes it a passion.

Think like a child

Believe it or not, many life coaches recommend this technique. Think back to the things you enjoyed doing as a child. For example, if you loved to listen to music, try taking it up a level by studying music or learning to play an instrument; if you liked colouring or drawing, try an art class.

Discover recurring themes

Take an inventory of things you tend to accumulate, such as books, films, etc. If you’re watching TV or reading, what do you watch or read about? If you go to a bookstore, what section do you go to? You might notice there are certain themes that attract you.

And if you are still struggling, answer the questions below to help you get started.

  1. When was the last time I was so involved in an activity that I lost all track of time, and what was I doing?
  2. What would I do if I didn’t care what others thought of me?
  3. When am I the happiest with who I am?
  4. If I were to die tomorrow, what would I regret NOT doing?

Remember that ikigai is not a destination but rather a journey of self-discovery so remember to enjoy the ride! Have you found your ikigai in retirement? If so, please let us know so we can share your story.

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