Have you ever wondered why you’re here on this Earth, and what you’re meant to do with your life? Many, if not all of us, have struggled with finding our life’s worth; our purpose for being.
Ikigai is a Japanese philosophical concept that explores finding one’s life purpose. It roughly translates to life’s – iki, worth – gai. Ikigai is about looking at one’s life and determining what they love, what they’re good at, what the world needs, and how they can earn from it.
These are concepts that can take years to uncover and require a drive for self-discovery. How does one start on such a monumental quest? We’ll give you the basics to help you get started, then it’s up to you to continue on your ikigai journey.
When one is pursuing their dreams and talents, it gives their life purpose and fulfillment.
What Is Ikigai?
Ikigai is often seen as a sense of purpose. It emphasizes finding fulfillment and meaning by pursuing activities that align with one’s passions. It encourages balancing personal fulfillment, societal contribution, and financial sustainability. Discovering and living according to one’s ikigai promotes well-being and a more purposeful existence.
Ikigai is a doorway to finding the true meaning of one’s life. It is a verb, meaning you take action once ikigai has been discovered. It is the finding of your true passion, which is something you’re also talented at and using that to benefit the world. In doing so, you may be able to receive an income or trade from it.
When one is pursuing their dreams and talents, it gives their life purpose and fulfillment. It is the reason for waking up in the morning and meeting the day with joy. It provides confidence and a greater understanding of who you are, and where you’re meant to go.
Ikigai Is Not a Shallow Concept
I believe it would be incorrect (and disrespectful to Japanese tradition/culture) to see it as something that merely serves the ego. Instead, it is deeper in the sense of finding what best serves you, and the world as a whole. It is more than an image to display or a trend to follow, rather it is a personal journey of connecting with your authentic self and life’s purpose.
Improves Health of The Elderly
What’s interesting is that ikigai has been hypothesized to lower mortality and risk of incident functional disability in the elderly. This hypothesis was confirmed after a 10-year long study that followed elderly men in Japan. This study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research shows fascinating results of how ikigai can improve one’s life.
Aside from improving the health of the elderly, ikigai is shown to improve physical and mental wellbeing in any individual, no matter the age. This study from ResearchGate analyzes the many health benefits of ikigai.
How to Pronounce Ikigai
Ikigai is pronounced ee-key-guy. When first learning about Ikigai, it was helpful for me to actually hear someone pronounce it.
In this video, Tim Tamashiro explores Ikigai in his own life and demonstrates how to pronounce it in a rather comical way. Check it out:
4 Components of Ikigai
To start discovering what Ikigai is for you, start with these four questions:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- What does the world/my community/the environment need?
- What can I be paid for?
Take your time with each, and answer them individually, without considering the others. You may find that there are things that answer each or some of these, and others that only answer one of them. Once you have explored each of these thoroughly, you can dive into your passion, mission, profession, and vocation.
How wonderful and fulfilling would it be to do something for a living that also gives back?
Your ikigai passion is combining what you love with what you’re good at. When you asked yourself the above questions, was there an answer that fell into both what you love and what you’re good at?
Keep in mind, you don’t have to be a master at your passion. You could be a novice just beginning on your journey, but it still feels natural and enjoyable to do.
When one is doing their passion, such as painting, dancing, or studying nature, it puts them in a state where they fall away from the thinking, rushing mind. They become lost in their art, and in those moments, they connect with something deeper within themselves and the outer world. It is this that gives one a sense of being, an anchor to living a joyous, fulfilling life. It is what enables one to continue pursuing their passion; becoming a master, or wise teacher of their art.
That is not to say following your passion is without challenges. I have found that following one’s path comes with many hurdles to overcome. It is the willingness and courage to face and overcome these challenges that establish your ikigai passion.
To find your ikigai mission, you must see what it is you love and what the world needs. In other words, how can you use what you love to benefit the world?
Most people have a mission they feel called to do, whether that’s providing healing to their community, rescuing animals, or saving old-growth forests. To discover your mission, ask yourself what moves your heart? What breaks it when you witness something in the world happen?
Acting on one’s mission takes courage and a willingness to put in the work. It is not easy to move out of your comfort zone to do something for the world or the environment, but it will provide you with a greater purpose. This Earth is full of wondrous blessings, following your mission is a way to give back, help others in need, and contribute to healing the world as a whole.
Finding one’s profession is looking at what you’re good at and what you can be paid to do. As you may imagine, there are many things one can be good at and be paid to do but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s their passion or mission.
I believe we live in an age where one can find a way to make an income doing something they’re passionate about and that benefits the world as a whole.
That doesn’t mean one should quit their job just because it’s not what they’re passionate about. It’s about the incremental journey. If you have a vision or a goal, then it will take time to build a solid foundation to achieve it. Your day-to-day job can become what supports your goal.
With this viewpoint, a job that doesn’t bring much excitement can have much more meaning in your life. This is because you know that this job is necessary for where you want to go and what you want to achieve. It is merely a stepping stone on your path to reaching your goals.
Finding a way to make an income doing what you love is 100% obtainable, especially now more than ever. Simply take a look around, and you will see so many people who created a business based on what they’re passionate about and what contributes to their mission. It is not an easy thing to do, but you are completely capable of doing it.
You simply have to believe in yourself.
When one combines what the world needs with what they can be paid to do, they’ve found their ikigai vocation.
How wonderful and fulfilling would it be to do something for a living that also gives back? Not only do you benefit from it, but others do as well? Wow – that is sweet music to the heart.
There is much that needs to be healed, protected and advocated for in this world. Find what sings to your heart, and see how you can contribute.
Examples of Ikigai
To help one have a better understanding of what ikigai might look like in someone’s life, I will share a personal example of what my ikigai is.
Something I love to do is be in nature and write. I’m a pretty good writer. I love to specifically write poetry, and I am able to share my connection to the natural world through the poetry I create. This led me to create a poetry book that I will soon share with the world. It will give back to my community and the world at large by inspiring others to connect with nature.
My passion is writing poetry and being in nature, my mission is to inspire others to connect to nature (where great healing can occur), my profession and vocation are selling my poetry book and having others read my art.
In life, you may have many ikigais. It does not need to be one single thing, although for some it could be. It could be many things you would like to achieve that would bring fulfillment to your life. This is the case for me, as publishing a poetry book is only one of two major passion projects. Here’s an example of the other:
I love learning about and working with medicinal plants. I am also skilled at medicine making and caring deeply for others. Because of this, I have created healing herbal formulas to help others, and am paid to do so.
My passion is herbalism, my mission is to provide healing plants to my community, my profession is creating herbal formulas and my vocation is selling (or giving) these herbal formulas to my community.
In my own words (and my herbal teachers), I call this following the plant path. This path has led me to create works of art through poetry that encapsulate my love for the natural world. With this path comes great responsibility to the Earth and my community, so I am faced with a number of challenges I have to overcome. It takes a great deal of learning and unlearning, a willingness to listen, and courage to share.
Everyone has a path they wish to follow. You may even feel it now, whether it be a whisper or a shout; a push to do what you know you are meant to do. Your very own ikigai to pursue.
What Is the Ikigai Concept?
The ikigai concept is about finding your life’s purpose and having the courage to pursue it.
How Do I Find My Ikigai?
Start by asking yourself the four main questions: what do you love, what are you good at, what can you be paid to do, and how can you help the world at large. You may not know the answers to these questions, and that’s okay! In fact, if you don’t know these answers then I congratulate you, as you are about to begin your journey of self-discovery.
Things That Give People A Sense of Purpose
Ikigai is a wonderful tool to help one look deeper into their life and what they find meaning in. This is something I love to explore in my life, and I was curious if it’s something my friends and family have explored. To find out, I asked a few friends and family what was three things that give them a sense of purpose. Their responses were delightful:
|Thing That Gives A Sense of Purpose||Tally of Family/Friends|
|Taking care of others||2|
|Taking care of animals||1|
|Being a mom||1|
|Being productive with my time||1|
|Awakening to my higher self||1|
|Using my gifts to better my environment||1|
|Journeying through life with my partner||1|
|Admiring nature’s beauty||1|
|Being open to new opportunities||1|
- Minimalist Lifestyle – My Experience and Simple Living
- Extreme Minimalism – Maximizing Benefits of Living with Less
- Modern Minimalist – Guide to Simple Living in Digital Times
- Maximalism – Elements of this Style Where More is More
- Shibumi – The Japanese Aesthetic of Simple and Beautiful
- Scandinavian Minimalist – Powerful and Meaningful Design
- Japanese Minimalism – A Timeless Style for Home and Life
- Shibui – The Elements of This Beautiful, Simple Aesthetic
- Maximalist – The Joys of Complexity and Having More
Ikigai is a beautiful Japanese philosophical concept that I believe everyone should pursue. Not only would we learn more about ourselves, but the world at large would greatly benefit from it as well. It is not an easy concept to follow, but it will help one find a fulfilling and joyous life. I encourage you to dive deep into ikigai and see what you discover.