Japanese Secret to Lead a Long and Happy Life: ikigai
In Japan, millions of people believe in ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy)— a reason to move out of bed every morning.
Ikigai has its origins in the Japanese island of Okinawa, which is said to be home to the largest population of someone who is more than 100 years old, in the world.
The concept of ikigai is not exclusive to Okinawans: “there might not be a word for it but in all four blue zones such as Sardinia and the Nicoya Peninsula, the same concept exists among people living long lives.”
Buettner suggests making three lists: your values, things you like to do, and things you are good at. The cross-section of the three lists is your ikigai.
Studies show that losing one’s purpose can have a detrimental effect.
ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:
- What you love (your passion)
- What the world needs (your mission)
- What you are good at (your vocation)
- What you can get paid for (your profession)
Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer.
Want to find your Ikigai? Ask yourself the following four questions:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- What can I be paid for now — or something that could transform into my future hustle?
- What does the world need?
How to attain Ikigai?
- Stay active and don’t retire
- Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
- Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
- Smile and acknowledge people around you
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.
- Live in the moment
- Follow your ikigai
What you deeply care about can unlock your ikigai?
Follow your curiosity.
“Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. 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
(Philosopher and civil rights leader)
The problem for millions of people is that they stop being curious about 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 fulfilment in what you do daily.
“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 own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous 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 feel and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.”
The best example is Steve Jobs’ curiosity for typefaces which led him to attend a useless class on typography and to develop his design sensibility. Later, this sensibility became an essential part of Apple computers and Apple’s core differentiator in the market. We are born curious. Our insatiable drive to learn, invent, explore, and study deserves to have the same status as every other drive in our lives.
Fulfilment is fast becoming the main priority for most of us. Millions of people still struggle to find what they are meant to do. What excites them. What makes them lose the sense of time. What brings out the best in them.
What is the simple thing you could do or be today that would be an expression of your ikigai?
Find it and pursue it with all you have, anything less is not worth your limited time on planet earth.
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