Ikigai (pronounced ee-key-guy) is an astonishing Japanese concept that essentially means ‘a reason for being.’ It is made from two Japanese words: iki, meaning ‘life’, and gai, meaning ‘effect, result, worth or benefit.’ Combined, it means ‘a reason for living.’
Amongst the many paths to happiness, a unique approach called Ikigai caught my fancy recently. I had earlier written about Hygge which is the Danish way to live well. Ikigai is the Japanese secret to happiness and wellbeing. It could not be further away from what I concluded from Hygge. Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles in their best seller illustration of this amazing concept call it the Japanese word for ‘a reason to live’ or ‘a reason to jump out of bed in the morning’. They call Ikigai the place where your needs, desires, ambitions, and satisfaction meet. A place of balance. Small wonder that finding your Ikigai is closely linked to living longer.
The book derives a lot of prescriptive calls to action. The illustration above helps you find your Ikigai by asking the four important questions about yourself:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- What can I be paid for now or in the future?
- What does the world need?
The diagram above has already gone viral since it was used in a TED talk on Longevity. Talking of which, people from the Japanese island of Okinawa have the highest number of centenarians. Not surprisingly, it is believed to be the home for Ikigai.
In addition, there are a set of ten rules that one can follow to find ones’ Ikigai.
- Stay active and do not retire
- Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
- Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
- Smile and acknowledge people around you
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks to anything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive
- Live in the moment
- Follow your Ikigai
According to Japanese culture, everyone has Ikigai. It indicates the value that each one of us must discover.
Ikigai is not just about how to be happy and how to live a long life. It is about identifying your life journey and the purpose. And the book helps you go step by step in identifying the same.
To be put very simply, as long as we have a passion or something that is meaningful and makes us get up in the morning, it leads us to a path of fulfilment and happiness. It is not something that we have not heard of. It is just that looking at it from a different cultural perspective brings in new realizations. Otherwise, who would not have heard of an ‘empty mind is a devil’s workshop’ etc. Also, as I continue my path to unearth guiding principles of happiness across cultures, I come to realize that the more they are different, the more they are the same!