Reason for Being: Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Why do you get out of your bed every morning? Do you feel bored and exhausted with life? What do you look for in your day? These were the questions I found asking myself every single day until I realised what the problem was. That’s when I asked the only question that really matters.

What is the purpose of my life? However, finding your life purpose can often be challenging and hard. That’s when I discovered ikigai the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Could Ikigai give me a reason to jump out of my bed and start my day with excitement? Was Ikigai the solution I was looking for. The answer was yes.


Why do we need a reason to get out of bed

“Essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” – Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Have you ever thought that you’ll be happier if you got that promotion or that raise? Have you ever felt that life would get better if you owned that particular thing you’ve been craving for so long? I am pretty sure your answer is a resounding yes. However, that is not what we actually desire. All of us are constantly looking for a solid reason to go through another day. And money and materialistic possessions are definitely not what we are looking for.

Having a sense of purpose is undoubtedly the biggest factor that contributes towards our vitality, health and overall well being. Without a defined sense of purpose in our lives, we will not only struggle through our life experiences but we will also face several mental and physical health issues.

This is why, more and more people today are investing significant amount of time and effort in seeking their purpose. The shift in focus from financial success and possessions to seeking a more meaningful life is refreshing and necessary to some extent. And this mindset has brought me to ikigai the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. According to the Japanese, discovering your ikigai is essential for a happy life and it can be found only by taking a long and deep look inside yourself. This is the way to bring meaning to your life.

What is Ikigai?

 “Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning.”
– Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Originated from the island of Okinawa in Japan, ikigai simply means “reason for being”. The term is derived from the words iki (meaning life) and kai (the realisation of your hopes & expectations). It is mainly a lifestyle which attempts to balance practical aspects with spiritual and psychological aspects. This Japanese concept includes the convergence of 4 major elements:

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

Each of these elements must intersect and work in congruence to help you find your life purpose. Your passion will lie at the convergence where your talents and passions meet with what the world requires and for which you can earn a living. If you miss either of these elements, then ikigai won’t work for you. By missing out on even one single element, you will not be able to utilise your life’s fullest potential. Finding the right balance of all four aspects will enable you to discover your ikigai and help you experience happiness and fulfilment.

Ikigai refers to the reason we start a new day, the reason we get up and the reason we live for. It tells us that true happiness in life doesn’t come from making money or getting a fancy designation at work. It comes from doing what you love and helping others. According to this Japanese self-development concept, all of us have an ikigai and discovering our ikigai will make our lives purposeful and meaningful.

However, finding it can be more challenging than you can imagine as it will require you to gain mastery over what you love doing and seek self development continuously.

The 4 elements of Ikigai

If you wish to find your life purpose, then you must have the following 4 elements to discover your ikigai.

#1 What you love doing

What are the things that you enjoy doing? It can be your hobbies or something you are passionate about. It could be anything from making music, dancing, painting, swimming to even cooking or gardening. Try to understand what things you really love doing. These things can act as motivators and help you make a choice regarding what career might be the best fit for you. If you are earning enough money but still feel bored with your job even though you are really good at it, then it’s time to consider your choices. Doing what you love can make you feel that spark that you are missing in your career right now.

#2 What you are good at

Knowing what you love doing and knowing what you are good at are two very different things. You may not like your current job, but you may be very good at it. I may love painting, but my paintings may not be worth a dime. You may be passionate about one thing but you may be skilled and talented with something else. However, that’s not necessarily the case all the time. So find out what you are good at and what skills you need to improve upon. When you are confident about your abilities about a certain task, you will be able to make a career out of it and get paid for doing it. This will help you find satisfaction and fulfillment when you perform a task with integrity.

#3 What the world needs

So you can cook a tasty meal out of anything. That’s great. But unless your skills & talents are shared with the world, unless you are doing something of value, unless you are providing what the world needs, you will not be able to make a life purpose out of your skills and passions. If you are a good cook, then feed the hungry. You can get your own food truck or work in a local food joint as well as volunteer in soup kitchens. When you give back to people and your community you will find a bigger purpose in life. Serving others gives us a sense of belonging and missing out on this element can make you feel isolated and lonely.

#4 What you can get paid for

Getting paid for what you are worth is not an easy task to achieve despite what others might have you believe. Doing a job to sustain your life and making money following your passion and skills while serving the world are completely different things. It depends on your confidence and self esteem. This is why it is one of the most essential elements of ikigai the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Until and unless you get paid for your talents and your contribution to your community, there’s no point to it. Is there? Just as much you need to focus on the other 3 elements, you also need to focus on your on livelihood and survival for ikigai to work for you.

Rules for finding your Ikigai

“Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.” – Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Before you set off on a journey to finding your own ikigai and transform your life for the better, you need to first understand the 10 fundamental rules that you need to follow. Here it goes.

  1. Patience is key. The process will take time and so you need to follow a calm and slow pace to move forward.
  2. Make sure to be active in your pursuit. Do not retire or wait for things to unfold by themselves.
  3. You need to surround yourself with people who think positively, take positive action and inspire you.
  4. Practice mindfulness to enjoy the present moment. Start with a simple mindfulness meditation practice for at least 10 minutes daily.
  5. Whenever you are eating, ensure that you eat only until you are 80% full.
  6. Develop a positive mindset, practice gratitude, compassion and kindness.
  7. Make physical exercise a priority. Exercise every day and make it a regular habit.
  8. Smile gently and thank everyone who does something good for you or makes you feel better.
  9. Establish a connection with nature by spending more time with Mother Earth
  10. Follow you passions and do what your heart tells you to. This will lead you to your ikigai.

How to find your ikigai

“The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.” – Hector Garcia Puigcerver

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Theo Harrison
Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.
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