Researchers from National Geographic who studied a group of Japanese people on the Island of Okinawa wanted to understand why the average person on the island lived to over 100 years old.
Do you know what they found?
Well, they ate off smaller plates, stopped eating when they were 80% full and were put into social groups that where they grew old together. But they also found they had a different outlook entirely when it came to retirement.
In the western world, we think of retirement as an ultimate destination of well-earned rest from the battlefield of a career. As a golden age of holidays, golf, coffees and well mostly recreation. In Okinawa, they don’t!
They never retire. In fact, they don’t have a word for retirement and no-one ever stops doing work completely.
Instead, they have a word called Ikigai (pronounced “icky guy”) which when translated means “the reason you wake up in the morning”. Another way you could think of this is your purpose or what drives you.
Tokohu University’s Graduate School of Medicine did a further seven-year study on more than forty-three thousand people and simply asked if they had an Ikigai in their life.
Those people who said they do have an Ikigai at the beginning of the study were more likely to be married, educated and employed. They were also healthier and less stressed out.
But what about at the end of the seven-year study?
Well, 95% of the people with an Ikigai were still alive (phew) and only 83% of those without one made it. (eek)
Along with increasing your life expectancy, changing the way you think about work and not retiring fully is highly recommended in Neil Pasricha’s’ book The Happiness Equation. He said that we need to work for four main reasons:
- Social – We need to be social to be happy. Work provides major social stimulation.
- Structure – We all have 168 hours in a week to get things done, work helps provides this structure between work, our social activities and rest.
- Stimulation – Work provides opportunities for stimulation. It helps us embrace and express different parts of our personality. Retiring slices off this learning, seeing, and experiencing and cuts off the stimulation in our world.
- Story – When you’re working you become part of something bigger than yourself. What does retirement do? It chops you out of a productive story.
So let’s not make the “dream” about retiring.
Perhaps, make the dream about ‘finding work so meaningful and purpose driven that we never want to retire’.
Sure we can work part-time, or volunteer. Sure we can make enough money that we don’t NEEEED to work.
I also encourage everyone to pull out a pen and piece of paper and think about what your Ikigai is right now and have it written out by your bed.
It could be a simple as “To Bring Happiness to My Office” or a goal like “To Finish Writing My Thesis” or even big like “To End Global Poverty”. Whatever your Ikigai is today, it might change tomorrow that’s ok.
The point is, to have one and to know that is YOURS. Let’s promise each other to keep learning, keep growing and to never, ever retire!
Love your work!
Founder of The Future Design Academy
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