Ikigai, or purpose, is a Japanese concept dating back to the Heian period in Japan. The Japanese word “iki” translates to life. Additionally, the “gai” portion of the word comes from the word “kai” meaning shell. During the Heian period, shells were very valuable (Dayman, 2020). Thus, the association of value to work remains in translating ikigai into “life purpose.” Since then, the ikigai concept has been followed and applied to areas known as Blue Zones. Blue Zones are areas in which residents have longer life expectancy than other parts of the world (Mogi, 2019). They may also have other contributing factors to longevity such as diet, lifestyle, and stress levels (Dayman, 2020). Okinawa is a Blue Zone and is known to have the highest life expectancy in the world (Allan, 2020).
Ikigai can also be described as life purpose, life worth, motivation, or finding joy through purpose (Dayman, 2020). Your own ikigai may change over time, so it is important to re-evaluate it from time to time. For instance, your ikigai may be a career you love but after retirement, that ikigai can shift to something else. Ikigai can be better understood using the diagram below:
Picture from https://savvytokyo.com/ikigai-japanese-concept-finding-purpose-life/
Ikigai answers four questions
- What are you good at?
- What do you love?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for?
These questions overlap to encompass factors such as your profession, what you are passionate about, mission, and vocation, or interest. Ikigai can be found in hobbies, volunteering, or simply doing what makes you happy.
Everyone’s ikigai will be different, and it may take some time to find it. To start, you can use the above diagram as a guide. In addition, your ikigai can be simple. Ikigai may be raising your family, spending time with your grandchildren, or participating in a cause or organization you are passionate about. Do not worry if you feel stuck, as your ikigai can change and evolve over time (Dayman, 2020). In addition, you can consider trying new things to find other endeavors you may be interested in.
Ikigai is important during all stages of life as it can help contribute to both personal and professional growth. Ikigai is something that can be reevaluated constantly throughout our lives. Your ikigai during one stage of life may need to shift to fit your current lifestyle. It may take time to find your ikigai but understand that it is unique to you and your life. Finding your ikigai and sharing it with others through meaningful interactions can help boost satisfaction in life.
Benefits of Ikigai
Some research hypothesizes that ikigai is connected to longevity and greater quality of life (Dayman, 2020). Another study found that individuals who had ikigai had lower risks of cardiovascular disease and lower mortality rates (Mogi, 2019). Having a sense of purpose or productivity and sharing that with others helps you avoid social isolation and can bring happiness into your life (Carr, 2013). In addition, having something in life that keeps you engaged, focused, and satisfied can lead to a better quality of life. However, ikigai does not guarantee a longer life expectancy, and more research needs to be done on the topic.
Allan, G. (2020). Do what you love and live longer, the Japanese ikigai philosophy says. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/12/health/ikigai-longevity-happiness-living-to-100-wisdom-project/index.html
Carr, D. (2013). Embracing the Japanese Approach to Aging. Retrieved from https://www.nextavenue.org/why-we-need-embrace-japanese-approach-aging/
Dayman, L. (2020). Ikigai: The Japanese Concept of Finding Purpose in Life. Retrieved from https://savvytokyo.com/ikigai-japanese-concept-finding-purpose-life/
Mogi, K. (2019). This Japanese secret to a longer and happier life is gaining attention from millions around the world. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/22/the-japanese-secret-to-a-longer-and-happier-life-is-gaining-attention-from-millions.html