Ikigai (生き甲斐, “a reason for being”)

Ikigai diagram of Japanese concept of finding happiness. Vector illustration chart

I read an article this morning regarding this Japanese concept and loved it!
What’s your reason for being?
What do you live for?
What is the reason you want to get up in the morning?
Many things to reflect upon, but first let’s dissect the word:

Wikipedia states that 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 life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’être”.

Ikigai can describe having a sense of purpose in life, as well as being motivated. Feeling ikigai usually means the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that follows when people pursue their passions. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are perceived as being spontaneous and undertaken willingly, therefore they are personal and depend on a person’s inner self.

Ikigai is the union of four fundamental components of life: passion, vocation, profession, and mission. It roughly means the “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you get up in the morning.” In a nutshell, it encompasses the idea that happiness in life is about more than money or a fancy job title.

On Japan’s Okinawa Island, nicknamed  the “island of longevity”, locals refuse to die. Residents have low levels of heart disease, cancer and dementia, and Okinawans’ robust social life and strong sense of ikigai (a unique purpose in life) often keeps them alive and healthy past the age of 100. Okinawa is one of the world’s five “Blue Zones” of longevity, and Ikigai plays a big role in keeping it that way. 

According to the book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, Okinawans eat a diet rich in vegetables and antioxidant foods, consume just a third of Japan’s average sugar intake and eat their meals on small plates. They regularly exert their bodies in low-intensity exercise and only eat until they feel 80% full, which aligns with ancient wisdom advising against overeating. Okinawa’s Kitanakagusuku village even holds a yearly pageant in celebration of women aged 80 and older. 
The key to Okinawans’ joy and good health is their ikigai, the core of one’s true nature that needs not be centered on a lofty, material or power-driven goal. Discovering and pursuing your ikigai every day, the authors write, will keep you busy doing the things that give your life meaning. But also, they say, it’s important to reconnect with nature, surround yourself with people who love you and stay active. 

As I reflect on my lifestyle, I have been practicing bits of Ikigai all along. However now, with this increased knowledge of it, I can be more purposeful and focused on it. I intend to live to 105 and my husband has set 95 as his goal. So look out world,  here we come.

An article in Forbes from Chris Myers in 2018 titled “How to Find your Ikigai and Transform Your Outlook on Life and Business,” states that Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfillment, and balance in the daily routine of life. It’s all too easy to fall victim to siloed thinking, that our job, family, passions, and desires are all separate and unrelated aspects of our lives. The fundamental truth of Ikigai is that nothing is siloed. Everything is connected. We are one.

Knowing these can improve your quality of life, and you’re longevity.
So, what’s your passion?
What’s your reason for waking up in the morning?
What do you live for?

With Light and Love and Ikigai,
Karen

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