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The Japanese Concept of Ikigai

Ikigai. The idea of purpose. It’s not a new concept. And, it’s something each of us think about. Something each of us likely struggles with at some (or many) points in our lives. But, Ikigai is more than just purpose. And, it’s not the first time I’ve fallen in love with a Japanese concept (I’ll tell you all about Kintsugi next time). 

Ikigai comes from the Japanese island Okinawa, which has the largest population of centenarians in the world. However, this same concept of purpose also exists in a number of places where people live long lives. So how is this different than the rest of the world? What is behind Ikigai and long lives?

The first part is simply the idea that you have a reason to get up in the morning. And not just get up, but jump out of bed. This reason isn’t just paying bills. Surely we’re all meant for more than just paying bills and death. Right? So what’s the point of getting up in the morning if it isn’t to do something we love. Well, many will argue that what they love doesn’t pay the bills. And of course, there’s some truth to that. But this is the beauty of Ikigai. It’s finding what you love and what you can do and how you can make a life of it. 

In the States, we turn 18 and, poof, we’re adults. We either start working or go to college. And either decision impacts the rest of our lives. I changed my major more than 6 times during college because I was 18. I had NO IDEA what I “wanted to be when I grew up.” Not really. I had grand ideas. I had a lot of interests. But I didn’t know how to follow my bliss. I wasn’t taught to find a passion and then find a way to make that my life. And it’s taken me a lot of years and lot of jobs to find my journey.

Imagine how different your life could be if you got up every morning excited for your day. How different your health, your energy, your mind could be if every day involved your true passions. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it. And many of us feel that’s just a dream. Not our reality. Our passions become our hobbies. Our routines consume us and our hobbies slip by when we get busy with “life.” And then we go years without doing those things we love. Until maybe it’s too late to enjoy any more.

But, what if…what if you could do what you love every single day?

“Purpose somehow gives your brain resilience. It makes your brain stronger and more resistant to the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s.” — Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, a neuropsychologist with the Ruth Alzheimer’s Disease Center

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 
                                     –Howard W Thurman

Purpose. It’s good for your health. Your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health. 

So, how do we do it? How do we find our Ikigai? 

Ikigai is an intersection of four pieces. And where these four sections cross is the path we should be following. That is our Ikigai. 

The four sections are: what we love, what the world needs, what we can be paid for and what we are good at. Where any two or three of these cross, we find direction, maybe fulfillment or money. But the center, where all four pieces can meet, we find our reason to jump out of bed each morning. 

To find your purpose, ask yourself a few questions. Or, make a few lists:

  • What do you love? 
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you be paid for?
  • What are you good at?

Leave a comment, or contact me, to get started on finding your Ikigai. 


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