A couple of months back, I came across this Japanese term, ‘Ikigai’ which essentially means finding your passion in life and leading your life according to that, in other words, your ‘raison d’être’ and the term really intrigued me. In other words, Ikigai is what makes you get up each morning and jeep going even when the going gets tough.
When I read more about this term, I thought that perhaps this was the missing link in our lives. If we lived a life worth living, if we did something which makes us jump out of bed each morning and looked forward to each new day, then wouldn’t that be the best thing ever? We would never have to work a day in our lives and life will be so much smoother without the usual angst work generates within us.
Ikigai which is pronounced as it is spelt, is a Japanese concept which means, “a reason for being”. The word “Ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”
Each individual’s Ikigai is personal to them and specific to their lives, values and beliefs. It reflects the inner self of an individual and expresses that faithfully, while simultaneously creating a mental state in which the individual feels at ease. Activities that allow one to feel Ikigai are never forced on an individual; they are often spontaneous, and always undertaken willingly, giving the individual satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.
According to best seller author Dan Buettner, Ikigai lies at the cross section between your values, what you like to do and what you are good at. When you are able to figure that out, you have found your personal Ikigai.
So how do you find out your own personal Ikigai? Make four lists – the first one being your passion in life or what you love doing, the second being your mission in this world or what you feel this world needs, the third list being the able to figure what you are good at or your vocation in life and the last list being what you can get paid for doing your vocation which is essentially your profession. The intersection of these four lists will allow you to figure your personal and unique Ikigai.
In their book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles break down the ten rules that can help anyone find their own Ikigai:
- Stay active and don’t retire
- Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
- Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
- Smile and acknowledge people around you
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.
- Live in the moment
- Follow your Ikigai
While the concept has been around for centuries now (it originated in the Heian period, sometime during the period 794 to 1185 AD), the majority of us, including the Japanese people haven’t quite figured it out yet.
There have been studies which say that Ikigai promotes a sense of wellbeing which is probably why the Japanese and particularly Okinawians where this concept is said to have originated live the longest. It was statistically proven that presence of Ikigai is correlated with a lower level of stress and an overall feeling of being healthy. The feeling of Ikigai balances out the secretion of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and β-endorphin. Some studies demonstrate that a sense of purpose or goal in life or Ikigai is negatively correlated with a need for approval from others and anxiety and studies also found that Ikigai is associated with longevity among Japanese people.
Human beings are born curious. Our insatiable drive to learn, invent, explore, and study deserves to have the same status as every other drive in our lives. So go and channel that curiosity and maybe you will be able to find that sweet spot in your life which is your Ikigai. Once you do, use it every day. Find things to do, simple or complex in your day to day lives which would be an expression of your Ikigai and once you have found and pursued it, you will realise that anything else is just compromise.
I am going to leave you with a Youtube video where Dan Buettner speaks in a Ted-Ed video on how to live to more than a 100 where he also speaks about Ikigai.