What is the purpose of my life? What am I here for? Am I on the correct path?”
Like many people out there, I’m seeking answers to basic questions about life. They are impossible questions for others to answer for me, or for me to help them. After finishing school, getting a job and earning a good living, some people feel content and fulfilled while some still feel lost with life. What makes us perceive life differently?
In search of the answers about life, I came across the word “Ikigai”. Ikigai is an ancient Japanese philosophy about life fulfilment which was also used as a title of a bestselling book: Ikigai: the Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
A Happy and Long Life in Japan
Okinawa is an island situated in the south of Japan and people on Okinawa have the highest average life expectancy in the world.
On average, in Okinawa, men live until 84 and women live until 90. These numbers are already impressive even by the standards of Japan. Not only are older Okinawans still living a physically and mentally active life, but also independently.
What seems to be secrets of life to us are actually quite intuitive to them. Apart from a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle and a good subtropical climate, they have Ikigai.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai is an ancient Japanese philosophy describing the feelings of joy and fulfilment when people pursue their passions. The concept has also been claimed to contributing to the happiness and longevity of the Japanese.
The term compounds two words and can be roughly translated in English as follows:
- “Iki” means life, be alive
- “Gai” means reason, value or be worthwhile Basically, Ikigai refers to reason to live or the purpose of living. Actually, Japanese people perceive Ikigai as a way to find joy and fulfilment in life while an interpretation taken by the West and the rest of the world focuses more on finding the right career path.
Ikigai describes the feelings of joy and fulfilment when people pursue their passions.
Find Your Ikigai
According to the book, people can find their Ikigai by answering these following questions:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can I get paid for?
The first question certainly is the most important one here. If what you love to do is what you are good at too, it becomes your “passion”.
If what you love to do is also what the world needs, it becomes your “mission”.
If what the world needs is also what you get paid for, it becomes your “vocation.”
If what you are good at is also what you get paid for, it becomes your “profession.”
Last but not least, if your four areas intersect, you have found your “Ikigai”. You have discovered the reason for living.
Ikigai Beyond Passion and Career
Frankly speaking, finding one’s Ikigai is subjective and can take years. In some cases, it may take a lifetime because one has to first objectively figure out what they love to do or what they are truly good at. Unfortunately, no one can give better advice than themselves.
I myself have been searching for “reason for living” for as far back as I remember. After learning the Japanese concept of Ikigai, I assume that the search somehow continues.
However, Ikigai as the secret of Japanese happiness and longevity actually goes well beyond passion and career matters. Self-care and mindfulness practice are equally important when it comes to living a happy and fulfilled life. Fortunately, I think I have scored quite high here.
Living a happy and fulfilled life contributes to better physical and mental fitness, and vice versa. There are 4 main areas of self-care practice claimed to highly contribute to Okinawans’ well-being.
1. Healthy Diet
- Eat a wide variety of foods and fill your stomach to only 80%
- Include foods that are high in antioxidant, including tofu, miso, avocado, green tea.
Eat foods that are high in antioxidant like green tea and berries.
2. Daily Light Exercise
- Stay active
- Walking, gardening, small household chores
3. Social Interaction
- Spending time with family and loved ones, nurturing friendship
- Involve yourself in community activities
4. Decent Sleep
- 7 – 9 hours
- No stress or worry
Simply speaking, mindfulness is living in the present. In the noisy and fast-paced world, it’s important to learn to slow things down and intentionally shut them out sometimes.
Take time to enjoy the moment. Take time to appreciate what’s in front of you. Eat more slowly. Breathe more deeply. Be aware of your surroundings and spend more time with nature.
In relationships, be fully engaged in the presence of your loved ones so time spent together is not slipping away or gone forever.
The key here is to not get caught up in past pains or future worries. Your present moment is your present. It’s life itself.
Everyone has their Ikigai hidden inside. It is unique and personal to each of us, but it can also change over time. As I reflect on my quest for Ikigai or life purpose, I know that I haven’t found it yet. Maybe my life purpose involves more profound questions to answer.
Some of you might have found your Ikigai already. For some, your Ikigai might take you just a bit more time to discover. For me, I certainly won’t give up my quest of life.
Personally, I believe if we can exclude financial rewards from the formula, a person’s Ikigai can be found in anything. For example, your Ikigai may come from your hobbies or relationships with family, friends and community.
As long as you find your reason to get up happily in the morning and know that your action makes a positive impact to the world somehow, I think you have found your Ikigai.
A new year is always a new chapter of life. For those who are still in search, may the year 2023 be the year you find your own Ikigai.
All rights reserved. Used by Permission of DeepGamma.