In Japanese, iki means “life” while gai means “value” or “worth.” So ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is about finding your life’s purpose so that everything you do becomes satisfying, worthwhile, and balanced.
In their best-selling book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles interviewed the residents of Ogimi, Okinawa, a Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds. They discovered that ikigai is one of the reasons for these villagers’ longevity.
“Research into the causes of premature aging has shown that stress has a lot to do with it,” Garcia and Miralles write. “[But] being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, ‘Walk slowly and you’ll go far.’ When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning. Looking back, our days in Ogimi were intense but relaxed—sort of like the lifestyle of the locals, who always seemed to be busy with important tasks but who, upon closer inspection, did everything with a sense of calm. They were always pursuing their ikigai, but they were never in a rush.”
Practicing ikigai will not guarantee that you will live up to 100, but it can certainly help make your life happy and purposeful. If you want to find your ikigai, take time to answer the questions below:
- What do I love?
The question speaks to your PASSION. Answers can be concrete (i.e. photography, community service) or intangible (i.e. inspiring others, appreciating beautiful things).
- What am I good at?
This refers to your PROFESSION. Sometimes the things you love (#1) will also be the things you are good at, although it’s not always the case. If you are struggling to define what you are good at, ask family and close friends for their inputs.
- What does the world need from me?
This is your MISSION in life. Create a list of things you can offer the world if you are called upon.
- What can I get paid for?
This question is focused on your VOCATION. What do you do that will pay the bills? List everything – planning, teaching, marketing, writing, cooking, etc.
After you have answered all these questions start to look for commonalities. Are there obvious intersections among the four categories? If yes, then congratulations, that is your ikigai. The next step is to find a way to express ikigai in your work and home; once you have done so, you will feel happy, enthusiastic, and satisfied with the rest of your life.
Written by Jac of MindNation