Ikigai is a term I regretfully did not encounter during the three years my family and I lived in Tokyo during the early 1990’s. Reading about it here, the concept makes so much sense, in both a quintessential Japanese way and in a way that resonates across all cultures.
Anchored to purpose, Ikigai brings a forward thinking and feeling perspectives to the mix – with a big emphasis on the latter. There must be something here, as year after year Japan continues to have the highest life expectancy among industrial nations. But then, maybe it’s also the diet? Another term I did know well during my time there is Karoshi, which means death from overwork, and was a dark reminder of brutally long working days typical in Japan. On a more upbeat note, here’s a good introduction to Ikigai …
There is a name in Japanese for this idea of finding what fulfills you: Ikigai. Notoriously slippery to define, it is made up of two words – iki, meaning life, and gai, meaning worth.
Ikigai can be described as the reason you get up in the morning. A person’s ikigai ― and they can have more than one ― can be their work, hobby, family, or anything that brings joy and happiness to their life. Related to the idea of ikigai is yarigai, which means the value of doing, and hatarakigai, which means the value of working. All three concepts remind us to ask ourselves why we do what we do, beyond meeting responsibilities such as paying bills.
This approach to life can also bring health benefits. Studies have found a correlation between longevity and having a life’s purpose, or ikigai, and Japan has the world’s longest life expectancy, 83.7 years ― five years longer than the U.S. (78.7 years). In this sense, one way to discover your ikigai is to recall moments, whether in the past or present, when you felt any kind of strong positive emotions. In her book, Kamiya said that one’s emotions are most true to what their ikigai is. You may be able to manipulate your logic, but your emotions do not lie. […]