Beyond material things or obligations, what drives you to get up in the morning? What fulfils you, or gives your life meaning? The Japanese have a concept to define your life’s purpose. This abstract concept is known in Japan as your ikigai (EE-key-guy), which roughly translates to your life’s purpose. So what is ikigai and how do we define our life’s purpose?
This centuries-old practice is meant to bring happiness, meaning and intention into your daily life. By viewing our life as individual moments that contribute to a greater meaning, we are able to get through bad times and cherish the good.
Aside from an interesting life philosophy, ikigai is also potentially the secret to a longer and more meaningful life. The practice originated in Okinawa, where many people still practice it today. Okinawa is nicknamed “The Land of the Immortals” because it has the largest concentration of people who live to at least 100, and nearly two-thirds of the residents function independently at 97.
Finding Your Ikigai
So, what’s the secret to ikigai? It’s actually quite simple. Though pinpointing your purpose can seem daunting, the answer actually lies at the intersection of four relatively simple questions:
- What do you love to do?
- What are you good at doing?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for doing?
It’s easy to fulfil one or two of these questions – for example, being paid for something you don’t love or being good at something the world doesn’t need. The trick to ikigai is to find a commonality in your responses to all four of these questions.
For example: if you love to exercise, are good at organising, know the world needs summer camps for kids and can be paid for nonprofit work, you could find your ikigai working with a nonprofit that provides after-school activities to underprivileged communities.
Ikigai For Everyday
Finding your ikigai might seem like a big ask, but the concept can also be applied to our everyday lives. “Everyday ikigai” is the practice of devoting your mind and body to mindfulness and purpose. Living with intention can help you become a more peaceful and devoted person.
You can find your everyday ikigai for your body by eating diverse, healthy foods and exercising regularly. These steps are meant to cultivate a healthy relationship with your body and energise you in your daily life. Pro tip: exercise doesn’t have to be boring gym workouts! You can pick up a fun hobby like swimming, biking, walking or recreational sports like netball to fill that need.
Another important aspect of everyday ikigai is the mind. The Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi and ichi-go ichi-e come into play here. Wabi-sabi is the practice of cherishing life’s imperfect moments, and ichi-go ichi-e means recognising that every moment will only come once. These practices help us appreciate life as it comes and ground ourselves in the moment.
Finally, everyday ikigai is about our relationships with those around us. This is most easily done by regularly telling our friends and family we’re grateful for them, and by practicing active listening.
By cultivating strong, healthy relationships with our bodies, minds and loved ones, we are able to find purpose within ourselves for our daily lives. By living more mindfully in the everyday, we also take the first step toward finding our own ikigai on a larger scale.