Until Mrs. SSC left her old job to teach, she was miserable. Her company continually reminded her she was just a number by dragging her and others through long protracted layoffs. Even though she didn’t get let go, the whole process left her with zero job satisfaction, and ultimately she lost all drive to work there. I felt very similarly working for that company my last year there, and after failing to get moved to a better position, I also left that company. We had both lost our ikigai…
What’s ikigai? Ikigai (pronounced icky guy) is a Japanese term that translates as “the reason to wake up in the morning.” In other words, it’s your driver in life, what keeps you going and motivated. Does that mean we really need a reason to get up in the morning if we’re retired?
An awesome article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Why retirement is a flawed concept” goes over this concept and how it has prolonged longevity for people that have ikigai, or purpose, versus those that don’t. Essentially, their study found that over a 7 year period 95% of the 43,000 people studied that had an ikigai were still alive, compared to 83% of people without an ikigai. That’s pretty astounding! They people with an ikigai also had self-reported lower stress levels and higher rated health.
What does this mean for us in “retirement”?
This means we need a purpose, we need an ikigai, and if work is your only ikigai, walking away from it may not be the healthiest thing you can do. My grandad was terrified of retirement. In his family, all of the men that retired were dead within 2 years of retiring. 2 years! Yipe!! He worked full-time until he was 70. Let me repeat that, he worked full-time until he was 70!! He liked his job, and sure it paid well, and he even had enough savings and retirement that he could have retired closer to 60 or even 55 if he’d wanted to. However, I think he was worried he’d have lost his purpose if he did that.
This is coming from a man with hobbies and a general sense of enjoyment about life. We spent numerous weekends hiking, and took loads of week-long backpacking trips when I was younger and retirement would give him the opportunity to do that even more now. Plus, he was also a big gardener and loved working in his flower beds and yard. Even though those were things that made him happy, I don’t think he saw them as things “worth living for” that would replace that ikigai that he got from work.
Do we really want to retire and do nothing?
Like that study found, and what scared my Grandad is that we don’t really want to retire and do nothing.
While we may all want some extra time for our hobbies, especially if you’re time starved like us, all of our hobbies and things we plan to do in retirement may not fulfill our ikigai. Whoa…
We figured this out early on in our FIRE plans which is why we coined the concept Fully Funded Lifestyle Change (FFLC). We don’t want to “retire” at 40 or close to it and just check out of life, sip Arnold Palmers, discuss the upcoming Fall season of new shows on TV, and generally “relax”, like I’m sure our waistlines would if we followed this kind of “retirement plan”.
We know that one or both of us might still be working. Wait, what?! Oh yeah, we might still be working when our Lifestyle Change happens, GASP!! Think about it, we’re already enacting our Lifestyle Change and it has definitely been for the better. While our income has dropped significantly, our level of happiness has increased, and our stress has decreased. Mrs. SSC – Prof SSC for some of you out there – has found her ikigai at her new teaching gig, and I love the new easier commute and overall free time in our schedule that this change has afforded us. I also regained my ikigai by switching companies and working somewhere that I feel valued and feel like I’m making a difference.
Where will I find my ikigai in our new Lifestyle Change?
Does this mean I’m worried I might not be happy upon leaving the office and corporate life behind? Yes, yes it does. Yet another reason that FIRE – urm, FFLC still freaks me out man! I’d love to think that being a stay at home dad will fulfill that ikigai, but to be brutally honest, I’m kind of scared it won’t. Yep, the cat’s out of the bag. Unlike other stay at home dad’s (SAHD) maybe I won’t adapt to it as easily and get much joy out of it. It’s not necessarily the pleasure I’m looking for, rather it’s a sense of purpose, and what if that doesn’t do it for me?
It’s my main plan, and if it doesn’t work that way, that’s fine, I’m adaptable and have a few other backup plans to achieve that. Fortunately, I know me well, and I am generally pretty easy to please.
Mrs. SSC will have teaching in this most recent version of our FFLC plan. With that being said, if she isn’t teaching and we’re both stay at home parents, she has her own ways to find an ikigai. One of her parents biggest concerns is that she is not the type to sit around for very long. As they put it, “What are you going to do in retirement?! You’ll go crazy after 3 days with nothing to do.”
It’s definitely something we’ve both given a lot of thought to, and it seems to be the main fear factor for a lot of people who are “close” to retiring.
What about you, do you have any plans to retain your ikigai once you leave the working world?
Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts!