Ikigai: The Japanese Philosophy to Find Purpose

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means your reason for being. ‘Iki’ in Japanese means ‘life,’ and ‘gai’ describes value or worth.

Today, we’re going to delve into the fascinating world of ikigai, a Japanese philosophy that centers around finding purpose and fulfillment in life. 

Ikigai, which translates to “reason for being,” is a concept that has been gaining popularity in recent years, as more and more people seek to understand the meaning and purpose of their lives. 

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and discover the power of ikigai!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Ikigai as “a motivating force; something or someone that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living”. More generally it may refer to something that brings pleasure or fulfillment.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai (a reason for living). And according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world’s longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. 

It’s important to mention that while traditional Japanese philosophy focuses on finding your bliss, western interpretation has used ikigai as a method of finding your dream career.

Having a strong sense of ikigai means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning. 

It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire (in fact there’s no word in Japanese that means retire in the sense it does in English): they remain active and work at what they enjoy, because they’ve found a real purpose in life, with the happiness of always being busy.

It’s often represented by a Venn diagram with four circles: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. 

Finding something that overlaps in all four circles is considered to be your ikigai, or your reason for being. 

Ikigai for What?

It’s a way to find meaning and fulfilment in your life and to live a life that feels truly worthwhile.

William Meller - Ikigai: The Japanese Philosophy to Find Purpose

Japan is ranked second in the world for life expectancy, with women expected to live 88.09 years and men expected to live 81.91 years. 

While it’s true that diet plays a role, many Japanese people believe ikigai has a lot to do with their longevity and living a happy life.

It’s becoming popular with younger generations both in and out of Japan who are interested in having meaningful work lives.

Because who doesn’t want to find happiness every day?

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