Ikigai: Japanese Secret To Longevity and Happiness

Ikigai the secret for longevity

The Japanese concept of finding purpose in life – Ikigai

What is Ikigai? Is that the secret of the Japanese for longevity? If you wonder what is the meaning of ikigai and how to find yours, you are in the right place.

In this article, we will try to explain what is the secret of a long and happy life and how to find your ikigai.

Ikigai, a combination of Japanese words “iki” which translates to “life” and “gai” is used to describe the value of worth. It is an old Japanese ideology that is associated with the nation’s longevity.

Or we can simplify this and say, your ikigai is what gets you up every morning and keeps you going. You can translate it simply as “reason for being“.

What Is Your “Ikigai”?

Everyone has an ikigai according to the Japanese. To find your “reason for being” requires deep inquiry and lengthy ” search of self” – a search which is highly regarded.

Hector Garcia the co-author of the book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”, says “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing”.

He writes, “Just as humans have lusted after objects and money since the dawn of time, other humans have felt dissatisfaction at the relentless pursuit of money and fame and have instead focused on something bigger than their material wealth. This has over the years been described using many different words and practices, but always hearkening back to the central core of meaningfulness in life.”

Ikigai is seen as a convergence of four primary elements:

1. What you love (your passion)
2. What the world needs (your mission)
3. What you are good at (your vocation)
4. What you can get paid for (your profession)

That space in the middle of these four elements is seen as the source of what makes one’s life truly worthwhile.

In Okinawa the southern island off of mainland Japan, the word ikigai is thought of as a “reason to get up in the morning“.

In today’s world where all think that the financial aspect is the most important thing, the word is often used to refer to the mental and spiritual state behind our circumstances as opposed to our current economic status alone.

Even if we are moving through hard and challenging times, if we are moving with purpose and have a clear goal in mind we may experience ikigai.

Read More: How To Improve Your Mental Health 

Often the behaviors that make us feel ikigai are not the ones we are forced to take based on the expectations of the world around us, but rather they are the natural actions and spontaneous responses that emerge from a deep and direct connection to life.

Philosopher and civil rights leader Howard W Thurman said:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that… Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Ikigai diagram

If you are not sure what your ikigai is, there are several ways to refocus your mind and purpose.

If you find yourself blocked because change is difficult, try adding some new things to your life: a new hobby, a new circle of friends, or a new job on the side.

For the start, it is important to gain awareness of the current status of your life.

Start by writing the 10 things that you have spent on time this week. After writing them to ask yourself are those things are adding purpose to your life.

You can ask yourself four questions:

1. Is it something that I love doing?
2. Is it something that the world needs?
3. Is it something I am good at?
4. Is it something I can get paid for?

If this all feels a little too cemented and you have trouble committing, don’t sweat it, research has uncovered that just like music taste, fashion and, opinions, a person’s ikigai can change and morph with age, so chances are they need a semi-regular checkup.

Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles in their book Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, present ten rules that can help anyone to find their ikigai.

1. Stay active and don’t retire
2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
3. Only eat until you are 80 percent full
4. Surround yourself with good friends
5. Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
6. Smile and acknowledge people around you
7. Reconnect with nature
8. Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.
9. Live in the moment
10. Follow your ikigai

Where Is Ikigai Practiced

Okinawa is a hotbed of ikigai ideology. A healthy diet, mild weather, low levels of stress are the reason for the longevity of the population on this island.

Dan Buettner wrote a book: Blue Zones: Lessons on Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest in which he studied areas in the world with a long-living population (Okinawa also included).

He discovered that all of them living in the different areas of the world have one common thing, ikigai or having a “purpose in life”.

If you can find pleasure and satisfaction in what you do and you are good at it, congratulations you have found your ikigai

Japanese concept to a long life

How To Unlock Your Ikigai

What you deeply care about can unlock your ikigai. The problem for many people is that they stop being curious and new experiences as they assume responsibilities and build routines.

Their sense of wonder starts to escape them.

But you can change that, especially if you are still looking for meaning and fulfillment in what you do daily.

Albert Einstein encourages us to pursue our curiosities. He once said:

“Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees feels, and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.”

Millions of people are struggling to find what excites them, what they are meant to do, what makes them lose the sense of time.

Our intuition and curiosity are very powerful internal compasses to help us connect with our ikigai- says Garcia.

Japanese secret of long life: ikigai

Final words about Ikigai – The Japanese secret for a long and happy life

What is the one simple thing that you could do or be today that would be an expression of ikigai? Find that thing and pursuit it with all you have. Your time on the planet is limited.

Don’t waste your time on things that are making you unhappy and dragging you down. Find your purpose and what makes you get up in the morning that is the core of ikigai and longevity.

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