“When you have ikigai, you don’t need to motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning. Your passion and purpose will propel you forward.” — Francesc Miralles
Have you ever thought about what motivates you to wake up every morning and start a new day?
The idea of ikigai was introduced to me in 2008 through Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones. Buettner is an American author, speaker, and researcher who is well-known for his work on Blue Zones – areas of the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives.
Buettner argues that in America, we tend to think of our adult life in two stages: work and retirement. However, in Okinawa, there is no word for retirement. Instead, there is one word that encompasses all aspects of life:
The concept of ikigai can be translated to mean “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. Your ikigai, or sense of purpose, is a highly personal experience that can manifest itself in various ways. It can give you a great sense of power and direction in life.
Research has shown that having a strong sense of purpose can boost your immune system, lower your stress hormones, and help you better handle life’s challenges. Therefore, understanding your ikigai can be beneficial for your physical and mental well-being.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that translates to “a reason for being,”
It’s similar to the French term “raison d’etre” or “reason for being.”
Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, describes Ikigai as an ancient and familiar concept in Japan that can be translated as “a reason to get up in the morning” or “waking up to joy.”
In essence, Ikigai is the ultimate goal that we all seek – a life worth living.
According to Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano, ikigai is a state of well-being that arises from a person’s devotion to activities they enjoy, which also brings them a sense of fulfillment.
Kumano distinguishes ikigai from hedonia, or transient pleasure, and aligns it with eudaimonia, the ancient Greek concept of a life well-lived that leads to the highest and most lasting form of happiness.
What Ikigai is Not (It’s not the Ikigai Venn Diagram)
To clarify, the popular Ikigai Venn diagram that people often refer to is not an accurate depiction of what ikigai truly is.
Although the diagram shows the intersection between what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, your ikigai does not necessarily need to involve a job or payment.
Ikigai is your reason for being, and it is not limited to a specific career or job. It is a spectrum of joy, purpose, and meaning that can be found in various areas of your life, not just work.
While the Venn diagram may not represent ikigai accurately, it can still be a useful tool for applying your ikigai to your career and work.
By using the diagram to identify areas where your passion, skills, and purpose intersect, you can make your work more fulfilling and meaningful. Ultimately, your ikigai should guide you towards a life of enjoyment and fulfillment, both in and outside of work.
What is the Origin of Ikigai?
Ikigai, the Japanese concept of finding one’s “reason for being,” is rooted in the fundamental principles of traditional Japanese medicine.
This ancient wisdom recognizes the profound impact that mental and emotional health, as well as a sense of purpose in life, have on physical well-being.
Dating back to the Heian period, which spanned from 794 to 1185, Ikigai has been a guiding force for the Japanese people for centuries.
In modern times, Okinawa, a small Japanese island located south of the mainland, has become renowned for its high percentage of centenarians. A major contributor to this longevity is the island’s strong cultural emphasis on Ikigai, with residents cultivating a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment in their daily lives.
Why is Ikigai Important?
Creating a state of flow and happiness in your life is the key to living a long and fulfilling life with a deep sense of meaning and direction.
Ikigai is important because it is a concept that can help people find meaning and purpose in their lives.
By identifying their own ikigai, or reason for being, individuals can better understand what brings them joy and fulfillment, and make choices that align with their values and passions.
This can lead to a more satisfying and meaningful life.
In addition, the concept of ikigai has been associated with improved health outcomes and longevity, particularly in the Okinawan population where the practice is deeply embedded in their culture.
How You Can Use Ikigai to Transform Your Work
Knowing your ikigai can help you:
- Enjoy your work: Pursuing work that aligns with your ikigai can lead to a greater sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in your daily work. This can lead to greater creativity, productivity, and overall success in your career. Additionally, enjoying your work can have positive effects on your mental health, physical health, and relationships outside of work.
- Design your ideal work lifestyle: Knowing your ikigai can help you align your work with your personal values, interests, and skills, so you can create a work environment that’s fulfilling and rewarding. By focusing on work that resonates with your ikigai, you can feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning in your daily work.
- Create a healthy work-life integration: When you’re pursuing work that aligns with your ikigai, it’s easier to strike a healthy balance between work and personal life. By prioritizing activities that give you a sense of fulfillment, you’re less likely to experience burnout and more likely to feel energized and motivated in all areas of your life.
- Pursue your career dreams: Your ikigai can help you identify your true passions and strengths, which can inform your career decisions and help you pursue your dream job. By focusing on work that resonates with your ikigai, you can feel more motivated and engaged in your career, leading to greater success and satisfaction.
- Create strong social connections at work: When you’re aligned with your ikigai, you’re more likely to find people who share your values and interests. This can lead to stronger social connections and a sense of community at work, which can boost your overall wellbeing and satisfaction.
How Ikigai Aligns with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy emphasizes pursuing activities that produce enjoyment and a sense of mastery as a way to alleviate depressive disorder.
Ikigai is a state of well-being that arises from devotion to activities you enjoy and find fulfilling, according to Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano.
Therefore, pursuing activities that align with your ikigai can provide a sense of mastery and enjoyment, which may align with the goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
How Ikigai Aligns with Flow
Ikigai aligns with the concept of flow, as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow occurs when a person is in their “zone” and experiences a string of their best moments or moments when they are at their best.
Flow usually happens when a person voluntarily challenges themselves to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile, stretching their mind or body to its limit.
Flow can be said to happen when a person consistently engages in activities they love and are good at, with the possibility of bringing value to others’ lives.
Such activities might be seen as being in tune with your ikigai or things that give your life meaning and purpose. It is important to note that ikigai is not solely about personal fulfillment and purpose in life but also takes into account others and society at large.
How Surfer Davie Rastovish Lives His Ikigai
Dave Rastovich is an Australian surfer, ocean activist, and conservationist who lives his ikigai through his love for the ocean and commitment to protecting it.
Here is how he lives his ikigai:
- Pursuing a passion: Rastovich’s passion for surfing started when he was a child and it has been a significant part of his life ever since. He channels this passion by devoting his life to surfing, while also being an advocate for ocean conservation.
- Finding purpose in life: Rastovich’s love for the ocean and its inhabitants led him to become an environmental activist. He has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the damage being done to the ocean, and to inspire others to take action to protect it.
- Integrating work and life: Rastovich has been able to integrate his passion for surfing and environmental activism into his work, which has allowed him to live his ikigai on a daily basis. He is able to spend his time doing what he loves while also making a positive impact on the world.
- Making a difference: By raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting ocean conservation, Rastovich is making a difference in the world. He is inspiring others to join him in taking action to protect the ocean and its inhabitants, creating a better world for future generations.
Dave Rastovich lives his ikigai by pursuing his passion for surfing, finding purpose in life through environmental activism, integrating his work and life, and making a positive difference in the world.
How Jane Goodall Lives Her Ikigai
Jane Goodall is a famous primatologist and conservationist who has dedicated her life to the study of chimpanzees and the protection of their natural habitats.
Here is how she lives her Ikigai:
- Pursue her passion: Goodall’s love for animals and nature led her to pursue a career as a primatologist, studying the behavior of chimpanzees in their natural habitat.
- Make a positive impact on the world: Goodall’s work has contributed to a greater understanding of chimpanzees and their conservation, inspiring people around the world to take action to protect these animals and their habitats.
- Stay true to her values: Goodall has always been a strong advocate for animal rights and conservation, never compromising on her beliefs and values.
- Continue learning and growing: Even after decades of studying chimpanzees, Goodall continues to learn and discover new things about these animals and their behaviors.
- Share her knowledge and inspire others: Goodall has written numerous books, given countless talks and interviews, and founded the Jane Goodall Institute to spread awareness about the importance of conservation and inspire others to take action.
Goodall’s life and work exemplify the principles of Ikigai, as she has found a way to live her passion, make a positive impact on the world, stay true to her values, continue learning, and inspire others.
How Chef Jiro Ono Lives His Ikigai
Jiro Ono is a world-renowned sushi chef in Japan and is an example of someone who lives his ikigai through his work.
Here is how Jiro Ono lives his ikigai:
- Pursuing his passion: Jiro has been making sushi for over 70 years and has dedicated his life to perfecting his craft. His passion for sushi is what drives him to wake up every morning and continue working.
- Mastery: Jiro is known for his mastery of the art of sushi-making. He is constantly striving to improve his skills and techniques to make the perfect sushi. His pursuit of mastery is what keeps him motivated and engaged in his work.
- Serving others: Jiro’s ultimate goal is to serve his customers the best sushi possible. He believes that serving others is an essential part of his job and finds great joy in seeing his customers enjoy his creations.
- Finding purpose: Jiro sees his work as a way to contribute to society and preserve the tradition of sushi-making. He believes that his role is to pass on his knowledge and skills to future generations and ensure that the art of sushi-making continues to thrive.
Jiro Ono lives his ikigai by pursuing his passion for sushi, constantly striving for mastery, serving others through his work, and finding purpose in preserving the tradition of sushi-making.
How To Find Your Ikigai
In the book, Awakening Your Ikigai, Ken Mogi walks through 5 steps to find and cultivate your ikigai:
Here is a summary of the 5 steps to find your Ikigai:
- Step 1. Start Small: Don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to find your ikigai in one go. Start by identifying small things that bring you joy and purpose, such as hobbies or activities that you enjoy.
- Step 2. Free Yourself: Remove any mental blocks that may be preventing you from finding your ikigai. Let go of limiting beliefs and preconceived notions about what your life purpose should be.
- Step 3. Seek Harmony and Sustainability: Look for ways to integrate your ikigai into your life in a sustainable way. Seek harmony between your work, personal life, and other responsibilities.
- Step 4. Have Joy in the Little Things: Find joy in the small things in life, such as spending time with loved ones or enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning. These small joys can contribute to your overall sense of purpose and fulfillment.
- Step 5. Being in the Here and Now: Practice mindfulness and being present in the moment. This can help you identify what truly brings you joy and purpose in life, and help you align your actions with your ikigai.
Seiiti Arata on How to Find Your Ikigai
Here is a video where Seiiti Arata walks through the 5 steps to find your Ikigai:
The Ikigai-9 Questionnaire
The Ikigai-9 questionnaire developed by Japanese researchers, Tadanori Imai, Hisao Osada, and Yoshitsugu Nishimura, is a psychometric tool used to measure a person’s ikigai.
Here are the 9 questions:
- I believe that I have some impact on someone
- My life is mentally rich and fulfilled
- I am interested in many things
- I feel that I am contributing to someone or to society
- I would like to develop myself
- I often feel that I’m happy
- I think that my existence is needed by something or someone
- I would like to learn something new or start something
- I have room in my mind
The participants are asked to see to what degree each statement applies to them one a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being “does not apply to me”, and 5 “applies to me a lot. ”
The Dispositional Flow Scale-2 (DFS-2)
According to ikigai experts Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, living a life according to ikigai doesn’t have a guaranteed way, but experiencing flow is an essential component.
They explain that flow helps us enjoy doing something so much that we forget about any worries we may have while we’re engaged in the activity.
The Dispositional Flow Scale-2 (DFS-2) was developed by Jackson and Eklund (2002) to assess an athlete’s subjective perception of several flow state indicators.
It’s composed of 36 items representing the nine dimensions of flow:
- challenge–skill balance
- action/awareness merging
- clear goals
- unambiguous feedback
- intense concentration
- control over the task at hand
- loss of self-consciousness
- transformation of time
- autotelic experience
Each item is answered in a 5-point Likert-type scale varying between 1-Completely disagree and 5-Completely agree.
By achieving these psychological states of flow, even mundane tasks can become exceptional, leading to a more fulfilling experience of your ikigai.
The ability to enter these flow states can help you get the most out of your pursuit of ikigai.
What is YOUR Ikigai?
Ikigai is a powerful concept that can help you find your sense of purpose and meaning in life.
It’s a reminder that true happiness and fulfillment come from aligning your passions, skills, values, and the needs of the world around you.
By identifying your Ikigai, you can design a life that is not only more meaningful but also more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Whether it’s pursuing a new hobby, changing careers, or finding ways to make a positive impact on the world, the pursuit of Ikigai can help you unlock your full potential and live a more purposeful and satisfying life.
My ikigai is to help you lead a better life with skill.
Get the Book
Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi is a book that explores the ancient Japanese concept of ikigai and provides practical advice on how to find joy, purpose, and meaning in everyday life.
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