Ikigai in Retirement


Photo by Huy Phan

Blueprint for a Purposeful Retirement

Retirement signifies the culmination of a career and the beginning of a new chapter, prompts individuals to grapple with profound questions about purpose and direction. The prospect of newfound free time can be both exhilarating and daunting, as retirees navigate the uncharted waters of life after work. In this article, the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which translates to “a reason for being,” emerges as an invaluable guide, offering a profound framework to shape a purposeful and fulfilling retirement.

The Four Pillars of Ikigai


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What you love

Discovering and nurturing passions and interests is a pivotal aspect of retirement. In its first pillar, the focus is on actively exploring hobbies, skills, creative pursuits, and intellectual interests that bring joy and excitement. Retirement becomes an opportune time to delve into activities such as painting, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, uncovering what truly sparks fulfillment. Beyond mere discovery, retirees are encouraged to cultivate these passions actively, whether through joining clubs, attending workshops, or dedicating time to learning new things, fostering a profound sense of purpose and happiness.

What you're good at

Recognizing and leveraging unique strengths, talents, and acquired skills constitutes the second pillar of Ikigai. This involves tapping into professional expertise, physical abilities, and interpersonal skills that retirees have developed over the course of their lives. Whether it’s offering part-time consulting, mentoring, or teaching, this pillar encourages retirees to harness their wealth of knowledge for personal satisfaction and community benefit. The multifaceted nature of personal capabilities, encompassing physical strengths and interpersonal skills, is highlighted as retirees are urged to consider how these attributes can contribute to their own sense of accomplishment.

What the world needs

Contributing to society in a meaningful way is the focal point of the third pillar of Ikigai. This involves exploring how personal passions and skills can address societal needs through volunteering, mentoring, community service, or artistic expression. Beyond personal satisfaction, this pillar emphasizes the importance of making a positive impact on the community. Aligning personal interests with societal needs, retirees are encouraged to actively participate in addressing pressing issues, fostering a sense of purpose and social responsibility.

What you can get paid for

While not mandatory, the fourth pillar of Ikigai suggests exploring opportunities to monetize skills and passions in retirement. This could involve engaging in freelance work, offering consulting services, or even starting a small business. The idea is to add another layer of fulfillment by providing avenues for financial contributions during retirement. Although financial gain may not be the primary goal, this pillar introduces the concept that retirees can continue to contribute to their financial well-being while engaging in activities they are passionate about, creating a harmonious balance in their post-career lives.


Photo by Anna Shvets

Key Takeaways


Ikigai Pillar

Application in Retirement

What you love

Discover and pursue passions and interests that bring joy.

What you’re good at

Leverage unique strengths, talents, and acquired skills.

What the world needs

Contribute to society through volunteering or community service.

What you can get paid for

Explore opportunities to monetize skills if desired.

Applying Ikigai in Retirement

Retirees can actively apply Ikigai using practical strategies and exercises:

  • Self-reflection prompts and journaling:

    • Uncover personal passions and strengths.

    • Reflect on past achievements and fulfillment.

  • Exploring new hobbies and interests:

    • Step out of comfort zones and discover new passions.

    • Join clubs or groups that align with newfound interests.

  • Reconnecting with old skills and talents:

    • Revive skills from the past and integrate them into the present.

    • Consider how previous experiences can contribute to current goals.

  • Volunteering and community involvement:

    • Identify local opportunities to make a positive impact.

    • Engage in activities that align with personal values.

  • Mentorship and knowledge sharing:

    • Offer guidance to others based on accumulated expertise.

    • Join mentoring programs or start one within the community.

  • Creative outlets and expressive pursuits:

    • Explore artistic endeavors or creative hobbies.

    • Use expression as a means of self-discovery.

  • Case studies and success stories:

    • Highlight real-life examples of retirees finding Ikigai.

    • Showcase diverse paths to inspire and motivate.

Benefits of Incorporating Ikigai in Retirement

Embracing Ikigai in retirement yields numerous benefits:


  • Increased sense of purpose and direction:

    • Clarity in life goals and objectives.

    • Renewed motivation and enthusiasm.

  • Enhanced well-being and mental health:

    • Reduced stress and anxiety.

    • Improved overall psychological well-being.

  • Stronger social connections and community engagement:

    • Fostering meaningful relationships.

    • Active participation in community activities.

  • Greater satisfaction and fulfillment in life:

    • A profound sense of accomplishment.

    • Enjoyment in daily activities and experiences.

  • Potential for continued financial security and contribution:

    • Monetizing skills for financial stability.

    • Contributing to the economy through entrepreneurship or part-time work.


Photo by Greta Hoffman


Ikigai, often described as the Japanese concept of finding joy and fulfillment in life, serves as a profound compass for navigating the intricate journey of retirement. In this post-career phase, Ikigai emerges as more than just a concept; it becomes a guiding philosophy, empowering individuals to embark on a quest for purpose and meaning. Retirement, with its vast landscape of possibilities and challenges, can sometimes be overwhelming. Ikigai steps in as a reliable guide, offering a structured framework that assists individuals in discovering their unique intersection of passion, vocation, mission, and profession.


Can I find my Ikigai without professional help?

Absolutely. Ikigai discovery often begins with self-reflection and exploration. While professional guidance is available, many individuals successfully uncover their Ikigai through personal introspection and proactive engagement.

Do I have to monetize my Ikigai in retirement?

No, the choice to monetize your Ikigai is personal. While it adds a financial dimension, the primary goal is to find purpose and fulfillment. Monetization is optional and depends on individual preferences and circumstances.

Can Ikigai change over time?

Yes, Ikigai is dynamic and can evolve with personal growth and changing circumstances. It’s essential to revisit and reassess your Ikigai periodically, especially during significant life transitions.

Check out these tips for applying Kaizen for gradual improvements in physical health and fitness through the Kaizen for Physical Health guide. 

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