Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

HomeRetirementSurveying the low-stress, long-life values of the Okinawans

Surveying the low-stress, long-life values of the Okinawans

I have focused much attention on Okinawa, a Japanese island in the East China Sea. Its citizens enjoy an enviable lifestyle which is credited with the incredible longevity that has seen the island classified as a Blue Zone. The people of Okinawa live well into their old age and maintain a wonderfully balanced life. They engage in many of the practices that we know create a low-stress way of life. Life in Okinawa is centered around community, living close to nature, and enjoying a diet often comprising what they have grown or caught themselves. They have a positive view of aging and grow old enjoying much esteem. So how is it that they have managed to achieve this and can we do anything to emulate this lifestyle in our retirement?

In many ways, the culture of the West is the direct opposite of the Okinawans. We live in a competitive world where we have to maintain often punishing diaries and high levels of stress. Our lives are time regulated. We try to maintain good eating and drinking habits, but the record is not great. Much of our store-bought food is highly processed and many urban residents don’t have easy access to nature. In addition, we live in an ageist society where the realities of aging are camouflaged or denied rather than celebrated and respected.

Can we mitigate some of these negative influences and adopt some of the practices that ensure greater longevity? It might be difficult to adopt Okinawan habits when we aren’t living in an environment that supports similar values. My thoughts are that retirement offers us an opportunity to embrace some of these values and practices and to share them with others. Inject the subject into conversations. Creating this awareness is the most likely way to influence us and ultimately have some impact on the way we manage our lives. An awareness that escalates to social media and becomes a subject of discussion is the best way to influence us and moderate our Western values. By speaking about these lessons, sharing them with others, contemplating them, and implementing those elements that resonate with us, we can surely affect our own longevity, too.

– Johann

Our top article pick of the week:

Moai: The Underappreciated Okinawan Value That Leads to Long and Happy Lives

Our take on the article: Moai are social groups unique to the Okinawan culture. The purpose of moai is to offer consistent mutual support in many aspects of life, from financial, social, and spiritual issues. Members of a moai meet regularly and these relationships last throughout life. They are a source of comfort and support in all life events. These groups are also intergenerational and help members foster a respect for and a positive view on aging.
To read this 5 minute article on Medium click here.

Our most popular daily thought this week:

The old people are treasures to us. – Okinawan proverb

One of the features of Okinawan society is a reverence for old age. Having a positive view on aging can help us age better too. In fact, science proves that a positive attitude toward aging can lead to a healthier longer life. Having this attitude as a societal value surely boosts this effect even more. How is aging viewed in your community?

Okinawan Proverb

Find your Ikigai for retirement

Use this as a journaling exercise to identify your Ikigai:

  • Write a list for each section thinking about what you love to do, what you are good at doing, your marketable skills, and where you can fill a need for society/others.
  • See where there might be overlaps across more than one section.
  • At the intersection of these different categories lie passion, mission, vocation, and profession. The sweet spot, where these areas meet, is your Ikigai – that which makes your life worth living.
A Guide to Finding Your Ikigai

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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.