06/10/2011 08:18 am ET Updated Aug 10, 2011

Opa! Why We Should Retire Retirement

Retirement is a hot topic these days in just about every country! It is interesting to note that the idea of retirement as we now know it is of recent origin; it was only introduced during the 19th century. Maybe it's now time to reconsider our thoughts about retirement given the recent economic crisis, as well as the existential crisis behind the economic crisis -- what we call the "meaning" crisis.

Not too long ago an advertising campaign by a financial institution in Canada aired across the country. The campaign was called "Freedom 55," which profiled and promised not only financial independence beginning at the age of 55 but also the lure of freedom to do whatever you wanted for the rest of your life. The campaign was very popular, and "Freedom 55" became a phrase a lot of people started to use when referring to their desire to escape the burdens of working life. But one has to ask, if one retires from work at the age of 55, even if that is practically possible, and the average lifespan is now over 80 years of age, what does one do with their 25 years of so-called "freedom"?

Consider some of the various definitions of the word "retire": "to withdraw, as for rest or seclusion; to withdraw from one's occupation; to fall back or retreat as from battle; to move back or away; and to recede." When someone announces that they are now retired, do they really mean that they are withdrawing or receding? Encouragingly, though, surveys by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) have concluded that over 70 percent of older workers want to continue working in some way. These respondents placed a high value on meaningful work that keeps them engaged in life, allows them to reinvent themselves and demonstrates that they haven't "given up on life." Some 86 percent reported that they believe that staying in the workforce in some way will keep them healthy and active.

We would argue that these findings are not determined solely by financial considerations and that they suggest that human beings, irrespective of their personal circumstances, want to live -- and work -- with meaning. We'd even go so far as to say that most people want to make a positive difference in the world around them and therefore need to engage with deeper purpose (the "P" in OPA!) in some way over the entire course of their lives. Meaningful work, broadly-defined to include full-time/part-time paid and volunteer work, offers a pathway to achieving this kind of purpose-full engagement.

This perspective on "retirement" and the human quest for meaning is supported by our own research in Greece and elsewhere over many years. In this regard, we've found that people who take the time to find meaning in their life and work are happier and healthier -- they are more joyful, passionate and fulfilled than those who have given up or never thought that meaning was (or should be) an integral part of their entire life. Living all of life to the fullest with enthusiasm and meaning is the core message and frames the core values of The OPA! Way lifestyle. It therefore requires that we "retire" retirement!

Insight: Regardless of chronological age, there is a lot to learn and leverage from the ongoing search for meaning in life. Will you continue to contribute to society in some way when you are "older," or will you simply retire, that is, "withdraw or retreat from life"? OPA!

Dr. Alex Pattakos and his partner, Dr. Elaine Dundon, are meaning experts and the co-founders of The OPA! Way® lifestyle of "Living Your Inner Greece!" which means living all of life to the fullest with enthusiasm and meaning. You can find out more about Dr. Pattakos, author of the international bestselling book "Prisoners of Our Thoughts," and Dr. Dundon, author of the international bestselling book, "The Seeds of Innovation," in their HuffPost bio. You are also invited to follow The OPA! Way on Twitter ( and join the OPA! Village (