Ikigai is a Japanese term that translates to “a reason/purpose for being.” On January 20, 2021, Keiro welcomed Tim Tamashiro, a Canadian jazz singer, radio broadcaster, author, and speaker to share his views on the importance of ikigai and how discovering this can add more joy into the work of each day.

Ikigai originates back to the Heian period in Japan. The Japanese word “iki” translates to life, while “gai” comes from the word “kai” meaning shell (something that was valuable back during this period). The word therefore roughly translates to “life purpose.”

During the presentation, Tim shared how he discovered his ikigai which is “to delight.” Through his own life purpose, he has been helping others identify their own ikigai. According to him, there are three steps to discovering your ikigai:

  • Explore – Experiment, and try something new.
  • Zero-in – Observe what you like/dislike from what you tried and continue the process, so you can focus (zero-in) and discover what you really enjoy doing.
  • Ponder – Think beyond your zero-in process and let the experience sink in by letting your subconscious mind process these experiences.

One of the main tips he stressed about the discovery process was to take action. He explained that without action, you won’t be able to discover your ikigai. Ikigai can start by discovering “what you love” and “what you are good at” and must have a “boomerang” structure where it should be a gift that benefits others. During the Q&A portion of the event, Tim stressed that retirement is a time of “nothing but opportunity” where anyone can discover ikigai.

Tim concluded his presentation with the following words: “What are you going to do with your turn to live? Are we going to spend more time exploring, zeroing-in, and ponder[ing] what our ikigai is? Because once you come up with your ikigai, your mind will crack open in the most beautiful way, like finding a north star that you can rely on. So, do more you! Do more you every day for your wellbeing and happiness by being yourself and watching the world [thank] you for it.”

Many participants shared how they were reminded of the importance of this concept. One attendee shared the concept was something familiar but ikigai was a new term she learned. Others shared it was a nice reminder to follow their ikigai by doing what they love to do.

For one participant, Kristine, ikigai meant “to make meaningful contributions to the community, building upon my career as a professor of Japanese history at Cal State Fullerton since 2002.” She added, “Having spent time in Japan as a student and scholar, I always thought of ikigai as ‘what gets you out of bed in the morning,’ but the speaker added to that conception with more concrete characteristics that were helpful for me.” She saw this presentation as a sign to recommit to her work with the community and self-reflect on the importance of what she can contribute to the world.