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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret That’ll Transform Your Outlook On 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 realized what the problem was. That’s when I thought about ikigai and 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 is yes.

Why do we need a reason to get out of bed?

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 to 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 a 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.

Related: 7 Ways To Find Your Purpose in Life

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai Japanese Secret Transform Outlook Life Info

It is a “certain state of psychological well-being,” explains a study. {1} 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’, referring to the realization of your hopes & expectations. It is mainly a lifestyle that 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 utilize 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 fulfillment.

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.

Related: 10 Skills You Need To Live A Happy Life

The 4 elements of Ikigai

According to a 2006 study, the phenomenon is described as a comprehensive concept of subjective well-being in Japanese society. “It is considered to be related to life-satisfaction, self-esteem, morale, happiness as well as evaluation towards meaning of one’s life,” adds the study.{2}

#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. To find out what you are good at and what skills you need to improve upon, you need to take a deeper look inside and be honest with yourself. When you are confident about your abilities in 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 own survival and livelihood to make ikigai work for you.

Related: How To Answer Your Calling And Find Your Life Purpose

Rules for finding your Ikigai: The 10 Rules of Ikigai

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret That'll Transform Your Outlook On Life

Before you set off on a journey to find 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 your passions and do what your heart tells you to. This will lead you to your ikigai.

How to find your Ikigai?

This Japanese term translates into the happiness, worth, and benefit of being alive,” explains a 2019 study. {3} However, finding your ikigai is a process that will take time, effort, and patience. It is not something you can develop overnight. Your life purpose will evolve and unfold with time. However, that doesn’t mean you can relax and let it come to you.

Here is how you can start developing the right mindset to find your ikigai.

Related: 7 Tips For Living A Happy Life

1. Ask questions.

Start with the most basic questions:

  • What do you love doing the most
  • What are you really good at?
  • What does the world need that you can provide?
  • What can you get paid for doing?

Take as much time as you need to come up with clear and detailed answers. You don’t need to rack your brains to find the answers. Just let it come to you naturally. Make sure you note down all the thoughts and probable answers that come to you over the next few weeks. The insights and ideas might seem absurd and crazy at first, but keep noting down whatever your mind conjures up. But most of all make sure you are honest with yourself.

You should also consider crucial life moments and experiences, both personal and professional, to get some idea about what makes you happy, what you are passionate about, and understand your values. Once you find honest answers and you feel satisfied with them, try to look for patterns and themes. Search for the intersections among the four elements. In case you are unable to identify distinct links or intersection points among the categories, don’t get worried. You will see things clearly in time.

2. Plan it out.

If you find it difficult to answer the above questions, then it might be a good idea to create a list with all the probable answers and then make a map from it. You can create diagrams using aspects from the answers that can be used visually. For each of the four elements, draw an interlocking circle to find out your ikigai. This process can be very helpful and enable you to get rid of any confusion.

The diagram or map you create doesn’t need to be correct or perfect. As long as you can note down your thoughts and organize them systematically, it will do just fine. Moreover, as you will have more thoughts and answers, your map will get updated over time. There will be a lot of things that will be added and removed in this process as you start experimenting with your ikigai in your life.

For instance, you start by mapping out what your typical day currently looks like and then create a map for what your ideal day following the concept of ikigai may look like. Identify what things will be added or removed here as compared to your typical day today. Visualize every aspect of your day and try to include as many details as you can. This will be undoubtedly a surprising revelation for you. As you keep updating your map, you will get closer to actually living out your ikigai life.


3. Experiment.

Once your map is updated and you have found your ikigai, you need to test it out. Experimentation will help you understand whether you have actually found your ikigai and whether it will work for you. Thinking about your ikigai is not enough. It’s time to live it out in the real world. If you want to experience the impact of ikigai in your life, then you will need to start by taking positive action consistently.

Moreover, you will also need to adapt and adjust to move ahead and evolve. Testing out your ikigai in the real world and taking the necessary action will get you started on your journey to developing a fulfilling and meaningful life.

You might need to change your priorities and shift gears to move towards new directions in your life. For instance, if you change your career, then you might need to change your lifestyle and your habits. You might need to travel more now than you did earlier or vice versa. You may have to juggle multiple tasks or you might need to spend more time with your family than you used to.

Your ikigai will bring in a certain level of changes in your life to ensure you live the life you want. This might be a bit challenging during the transition phase, but once it’s done and over with, you will find out that your ikigai has led you to exactly where you need to be. Testing your ikigai will allow you to take the right steps for accomplishing your goals.

4. Create a support system.

While you work on your sense of ikigai, the Japanese secret to a long and happy life, it can help to have a well-developed support system during this transition period. For instance, if you plan on changing your career and creating a full-time career out of something you are passionate about, then start by talking with people who have successfully made similar transitions. Understand what it takes to make it work, ask them –

  • What exactly they did to make it happen?
  • What challenges they faced?
  • How much time it took for them to make the shift?
  • What are the rewards and
  • What their overall experience was?

Ask them as many questions as you can to get a clear idea about what you are getting yourself into. Moreover, find mentors who can guide and inspire you to reach your goals. When you have people who care about you, you will feel motivated to push through even when the days seem dark and dull.

Understand this, living a life of purpose is not an easy task. You will need to face challenges and you will need to overcome numerous obstacles before you can reach your finish line. This is why it is crucial that you have a strong support system that would give you moral support and help you live your ikigai life.

Related: Ichigo Ichie: The Japanese Art of Living Every Moment

Follow your own ikigai

According to a 2019 study, Japanese culture considers ikigai as a symbol of psychological well-being.  In everyday language, the concept typically involves “a sense of accomplishment, devotion (despite difficulties), and social and benevolent contribution.” {4}

Finding your passion and discovering your ikigai can be one of the greatest achievements of life. However, it can also be one of the greatest challenges in life to embark on this journey. It will require self-reflection, patience, and positive action for you to live your ikigai. You need to analyze your sense of purpose and happiness continually.

Ikigai is not just about living a healthy, happy, and meaningful life. It is about discovering yourself and accepting the journey that you have set on. It is about enjoying life. It is about understanding what exactly will make you happy and give purpose to your life. Studies show that people who have a sense of ikigai tend to have a lower risk of all-cause mortality. {5}

Ikigai is about discovering yourself.Ikigai: The Japanese Secret That'll Transform Your Outlook On Life


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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.View Author posts

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