6 min read

Whatever You Do, Don’t Retire! - Why is Work So Important to Humans?

By CHOYS Community
09 Oct 2023

What does work mean to you? Is it something you're passionate about or simply a way to make a living? Do you find joy in it or does it stress you out?

These questions deserve our attention because we're living in an age where there is a growing fascination with entrepreneurship. Many people now desire to work for themselves or they want to create something truly their own.

But a salaried employee’s passion for their work may take a different form. Perhaps they’re in pursuit of working at their dream company, or more financial independence and better status, or simply providing for their loved ones.

As Sigmund Freud once remarked, "Love and work... work and love, that's all there is," and throughout our evolution, love and work have remained fundamental to human existence.

We are inherently social beings, always thriving within communities. Work has always been a means to secure our daily sustenance and essentials. While how we perceive and experience love has remained relatively constant—portrayed in books, movies, and TV shows with a timeless feeling—work has undergone a transformative journey.

Today, work has become synonymous with hustle, the nine-to-five grind, and, regrettably, stress and burnout.

However, it wasn't meant to be this way. Work doesn’t mean the traditional definition of earning. Rather, it means “in motion” for your mind and body.

Source: Britannica

Work is crucial to nurturing our creativity and sustaining our health. It doesn't have to be confined to the workplace alone. Think about personal and creative projects, activities that ignite imagination, and serve as stress-relief outlets.

To get a more holistic view of what work means, let's turn our attention to the Japanese concept, “Ikigai” and the Okinawan community in Japan. Their way to live is humanised and for them work is a source of not only longevity but fulfilment.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that can transform the way you view your life and work.

It means "reason for being." If you picture a venn diagram, your Ikigai is that spot where what you love, what you're good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs intersect.

What is Ikigai

In Japanese, "iki" means life, and "gai" denotes value or worth. Your Ikigai is what brings you joy. It is your reason to get out of bed every morning, and it is what fills your life with meaning.

Traditionally, Japanese philosophy focuses on finding your bliss, but Western interpretation has embraced Ikigai as a means to discover your dream career.

How to Find Your Ikigai?

Your Ikigai is where all the essential aspects of your life overlap with each other. Here are your life’s essential aspects that will help you find your Ikigai:

What You Love: This is your passion. What activities make your heart sing? What could you do for hours without getting bored?

What You're Good At: This is your talent. What are your strengths? What do others often compliment you on?

What You Can Be Paid For: This relates to your profession. What skills or knowledge can you monetize?

What the World Needs: This represents your mission. What issues or problems do you care deeply about, and how can you contribute to their solutions?

Your Ikigai resides at the intersection of these four elements. It's where your passion, talent, profession, and mission converge.

How Significant is Ikigai in Your Professional Life?

The Okinawans’ longevity and happiness are often attributed to Ikigai. Knowing your Ikigai can help you design your ideal work lifestyle, build strong social connections, maintain a healthy work-life balance, pursue your career dreams, and truly enjoy your work. It's about aligning your purpose with your actions and creating a life that's both meaningful and fulfilling.

But how does Ikigai, a practice and value native to a remote island population in Japan, help you feel more fulfilled at your modern workplace?

It's because finding your purpose is one thing, but to feel truly fulfilled at work you need to learn the best ways of dealing with the negative side of work. There is stress, burnout, insecurities, disagreements, and so on. There are additional Okinawan practices that will help you overcome the struggles at your workplace.

The Secrets to Feeling Fulfilled at Workplace

Did you know that there is no word for retirement in Okinawa? The people from this island keep themselves engaged in work throughout their long lives.

For the world’s longest living community, work is as essential as breathing. Working here does not mean that a 90 year old former doctor in Okinawa is practising medicine even at this age. Rather the individuals take up activities like gardening or running a market stall. But they’re always “working” and they’re always in motion.

Let’s take a look at what keeps Okinawans resilient and driven even at 100+ years of age:

1. Building Resilience Through Wabi-Sabi

Stress is an inevitable part of life, including our professional lives. In Japan, there is a strong emphasis on resilience - the ability to bounce back from challenges with grace and strength. One concept from Japanese culture that embodies this resilience is "wabi-sabi."

Wabi-sabi is a celebration of imperfection and transience. It teaches us that life is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, and therein lies its beauty.

Additionally, wabi-sabi also talks about mindfulness and living in the moment. By celebrating imperfections and the small moments in life you can attain some levels of inner peace, which in turn will help you deal with stress better.

For instance, think about a handcrafted ceramic vase. Rather than seeking perfection in its shape, you embrace the unique irregularities and asymmetry as part of its charm. In fact, an example of wabi-sabi at work is sharing your work-in-progress with colleagues and inviting their input, recognizing that this collaborative journey of building is a valuable part of the creative process.

2. Finding the “Flow” and Making Work a Source of Joy

Another concept that might be secret to long life in Japan is the idea of finding "flow" in everything you do. This concept, developed by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, refers to a state of being fully immersed and energised by an activity. It's that magical feeling when you lose track of time because you're so engrossed in what you're doing.

Discovering your flow at work is a key component of Ikigai. It means aligning your tasks with your passions and strengths. When you're in a state of flow, work doesn't feel like a chore; it becomes a source of inspiration and vitality.

Imagine a person who loves to read, and when they dive into a captivating book, hours pass unnoticed. They're in a state of flow, where activities become sources of inspiration and vitality. To achieve this, you can apply the concept of flow to various aspects of your life by engaging in activities that fully absorb your attention and align with your interests. Whether it's cooking, gardening, or even solving puzzles, immersing yourself in these activities can help you experience the joy of flow in your everyday life.

3. Turning Work and Free Time into Spaces for Growth

It's possible to turn both your professional life and your leisure time into spaces for personal growth. Instead of compartmentalising work and free time, you can integrate them.

For instance, if you love painting, why not incorporate it into your work, such as designing creative presentations? If you're passionate about community service, seek opportunities within your organisation to contribute to charitable causes.

4. Continual Learning

The pursuit of Ikigai also involves a commitment to lifelong learning. It's about being open to new experiences and challenges, just as Steve Jobs attended a calligraphy class purely out of curiosity, which later influenced the design of Apple's computers.

Incorporating continual learning into your professional life not only keeps your mind sharp but also allows you to explore new skills and passions that can contribute to your overall sense of fulfilment.

How Can CHOYS Enhance Your Ikigai?

In your journey towards achieving ikigai and experiencing a more fulfilling work life, CHOYS provides practical support and tools tailored to your wellbeing.

Mindfulness is a core element of Ikigai, and CHOYS embraces this philosophy wholeheartedly. With features like mood tracking and steps challenges to keep your body in motion, CHOYS helps you nurture your emotional and physical wellbeing. By staying attuned to your moods and taking firm steps towards fitness amidst the hustle and bustle of work, you can foster a sense of balance that aligns perfectly with the principles of Ikigai.

Additionally, CHOYS recognizes that building positive habits is essential for staying engaged and driven in your professional life. CHOYS’s Habit Tracker feature empowers you to take charge of your wellbeing. Whether it's cultivating a habit of daily reflection, learning a new skill or language, or setting goals that align with your Ikigai, CHOYS gives you a medium to become the person you aspire to be.

By prioritizing mindfulness and habit-building, CHOYS becomes a valuable companion on your quest for professional fulfillment. It complements the principles of Ikigai by offering practical means to enhance your wellbeing, resilience, and overall work-life satisfaction. With CHOYS by your side, you can confidently navigate the challenges of modern work life while staying true to the essence of Ikigai.


  1. Britannica: work