Ikigai: Find your Happy Place!

Ikigai is a Japanese term that literally translates into “a reason for being”. It’s describes a sense of purpose in life. The word consists of ‘Iki’ (to live) and ‘gai’ (reason). The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (生き) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) meaning “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail” (sequentially voiced as gai) to arrive at “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’etre”. Let’s find out why you need this in your life.

The term was first used in the Japanese island of Okinawa. The island is supposed to have the highest number of centenarians. But this concept is not only for having a long life, it is also important for them to wake up in the morning. According to an interview conducted with the elderly of the island it was found that they still have a lot of things to look for when they wake up in the morning.

American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell once said, “My general formula for my students is “Follow your bliss.” Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.”

This concept is in its core an intersection of 4 major things. These are:

  • What you love (your passion)
  • What the world needs (your mission)
  • What you are good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get paid for (your profession)

Many sociologists, scientists, and journalists have researched and hypothesized the usefulness and truth behind this particular phenomenon, and they’ve come to a number of very interesting conclusions. One particular theory is that ikigai can make you live longer and with more direction.

If you feeling lost or unsure about your future or where are you going just try to hang on for a little more you might just be able to find out!

  1. Take a closer look

Sit for a while and take a look a how’s your life going. Think if you are doing what you wanted to do, what your dream was. According to research most of the people take up a job which they do not love. So before quitting your job just sit and brainstorm what you wanted in life.

2. Take action

After figuring out what you want to do next, start making a plan on how you will approach it. I know it will sound a bit cliché, but yes this what needs to be done.

CEO of executive recruiting firm Probity Global Search Yuko Takato spends her days with highly qualified people who consider work as their ikigai and, according to Takato, they all have one thing in common: they are motivated and quick to take action.

“If you want to start a company but you are scared to dive into the unknown, go and see someone who is already doing something similar to what you have in mind.” By seeing your plans in action, Takato says, “it will give you confidence that you can do it too”.

3. Think smaller

In one experiment, cold callers at the University of Michigan who spent time with a recipient of the scholarship they were trying to raise money for brought in 171% more money when compared with those who were merely working the phone. The simple act of meeting a student beneficiary provided meaning to the fundraisers and boosted their performance.

This applies to life in general. Instead of trying to tackle world hunger, you can start small by helping someone around you, like a local volunteering group.

4. Diversify

Champion hurdler Dai Tamesue, who retired in 2012, said in a recent interview that the fundamental question he asked after he retired was: “what was it that I wanted to achieve by playing sports?”

“For me, what I wanted to achieve through competing in track and field was to change people’s perceptions”. After retiring, he started a company that supports sports-related business.

Tamesue’s story shows the malleable nature of ikigai and how it can be applied. When retirement comes, it is helpful to have a clear understanding of why you do what you do beyond collecting a payslip.

By being mindful of this concept, it might just help you live a more fulfilling life.

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