Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Another Way To Find Meaning When You Need Some


Meaning replacement therapy is my cheeky way of suggesting that retirees can replace lost meaning and purpose once full-time work is over.

There’s another way to get at meaning and purpose: ikigai (pronounced ick-ee-guy).

Google it. It’s all over the place. It’s a Japanese concept that researchers from National Geographic found has its epicenter on the island of Okinawa, where there is apparently no word for retirement and people live extraordinarily long lives. Okinawa is one of the wondrous “blue zones” of longevity. It has one of the largest populations of centenarians in the world and a pop band of grandmothers called KBG84, which stands for Kohamajima Ba-chan Gasshodan (Kohama Island granny's choir). Average age: 84.

Ikigai is one of the reasons for long life on Okinawa. It translates roughly to, “the reason you wake up in the morning” or “your reason for being.”

Ikigai is the convergence of four drivers in life:
What you love (your passion)
What the world needs (your mission)
What you are good at (your vocation)
What you can get paid for (your profession)

For retirees, getting paid might be considered optional, although it sure feels good to get paid for something you do. It still motivates me. I’d like to believe it doesn’t but I’d be fooling myself.

The other three drivers seem to be the crux, particularly what you love doing, what you do when you feel blissfully “lost” in the process. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it "flow." He maintains money has very little to do with happiness. It’s about ecstasy.

I’ve often felt blissfully lost when writing. As a young man, I experienced it playing basketball. Sex comes to mind. (I try not to talk about that too much in a retirement blog, for fear of disturbing the children.)

What are those flow things for you? Where’s the ecstasy? How can you get more of it in your life now that there’s more time? And how can you add mission, vocation, and even compensation to reach the vaunted ikigai?

Here’s a good backgrounder on ikigai by Thomas Oppong, a blogger I recommend for anyone interested in being a better human.

(The graphic has been politely lifted from The Toronto Star.)


Feel free to email me about this post.
I probably can’t respond but would appreciate your insight or story or query, which I might refer to in a future post.

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