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Concept of IKIGAI-To Know The Purpose Of Life

Purpose, meaning, or worth are components of a larger concept called ‘Ikigai.’ Ikigai is a philosophy of life that focuses on our reasons for being. This concept originated in Japan and it integrates ‘iki’ meaning alive with ‘gai’ meaning worth. Ikigai is something that makes you want to wake up in the morning.

Ikigai originated from a health and wellness model of traditional Japanese medicine. The model holds the view that mental health and a sense of purpose can have an impact on one’s physical health or well-being. Ikigai is mostly practiced in Okinawa, a southern island of mainland Japan. Most residents here live a long life and are driven by purpose.

The concept of Ikigai was popularized by Meiko Kamiya, a Japanese psychiatrist in her book, ‘On the Meaning of Life’ in 1966 (Ikigai ni-tsuite), in which she explains that the word “ikigai” is related to ‘happiness’, with a slight difference in its distinction.

Concept Of Ikigai

Ikigai is about a sense of purpose, which can be found through asking these 4 questions. You might know the answers to some of these questions and some answers may require more self-reflection and exploration. The crossover of these factors makes up ikigai.

What you love ?

This factor includes things that a person loves doing. It can be activities that bring joy and pleasure to a person. It can be singing, writing, dancing, talking to close ones, etc. Anything that brings unbridled joy to a person can be mentioned here. One should think about this factor freely, without fixating on any other factors.

What you are good at ?

This factor includes skills or talents that a person may have. It could be gardening, speaking politely, being understanding, etc. This factor could include hobbies and strengths that an individual has. A person should not think about other factors here.

What the world needs ?

This factor includes things that a community or society as a whole needs. It could be access to education, more hospital beds, better traffic rules, etc. This factor is more about others’ needs than self-gratifying desires.

What you can be paid for ?

This factor includes things that you can be paid for. Not all passions and hobbies can get paid for by society. This factor includes narrowing down your options and mentioning what activities you can get paid for.

Integrations Of Factors

  • Passion is something that you love combined with something you are good at.
  • The mission is something you love combined with what the world needs.
  • Vocation is something that the world needs to be combined with what you can get paid for.
  • The profession is something that you are good at combined with what you can get paid for.

The sweet spot of ikigai would be the combination of something you are passionate about and are also good at, something that the world requires, and for that, someone will pay you.

An example of this sweet spot would be, Kristina is passionate about mental health awareness, she is good at being empathetic and understanding towards peoples’ issues, the world needs some awareness at the moment and there are jobs available for mental health advocates.


  • Her passion is for helping people advance toward better mental health with her qualities of empathy and understanding.
  • Her mission is to educate people and spread awareness about mental health.
  • Her vocation is being a mental health advocate.
  • Her profession is as a counselor/psychologist.

Ikigai is not constrained to one specific career goal or achievement. The more traditional view of Ikigai is about leading a happy, joyful life, enjoying the little things, and being in the present while reminiscing good memories of the past.

For instance, taking time out to go for a walk with your dog or buying flowers for your room are also in line with the idea of ikigai.

Importance of Ikigai

  • Firstly, ikigai can make you happier, as it gives you more joy and satisfaction, which are essential components of happiness.
  • Secondly, it gives purpose and a sense of direction to our life. In a way, it wants us to get up in the morning and makes every day worth living. It gets us off our autopilot routines by adding meaning to our days.
  • Thirdly, it was found that this philosophy of living can help you live longer. The sense of satisfaction that ikigai provides boosts a specific hormone, called the youth DHEA hormone, which leads to a longer, healthier and happier life.

DHEA or Dehydroepiandrosterone is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, gonads, and the brain. The hormone is abundant in circulation but decreases with age. It plays an important role in producing estrogen and androgen sex hormones. In the central nervous system, it is known to be involved in a variety of functions like an increase in memory and learning, and a reduction of risk of age-related neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and so on.

How To Find Your Ikigai?

People often feel lost and confused during the early years of adulthood, when they must make some career and life choices. Finding ikigai could be helpful to anyone looking for more joy and satisfaction in life.

  • Appreciate the small things in your life or routine. For instance, appreciating the smile on your parents’ faces, or how pretty the balloons are at the nearby stall. Sensory pleasure can provide more joy in your regular days.
  • Finding your ‘flow’ could also help. Flow is a concept given by the Hungarian American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

He described flow as moments when a person is at his or her best. Flow can often be experienced when an individual is deeply into work, especially something he or she is passionate about and also good at.

  • Being in the present or the ‘here and now’ can also help. Not dwelling on past failures and focusing on present opportunities for success and joy is imperative to ikigai.
  • Doing new things and meeting new people can also lead to more exploration of what makes you happy and what you are good at. New things and people can help you in finding what you like and dislike, making it a little easier in finding your sense of being.
  • Self-acceptance is also a key to ikigai. Accept yourself, with all your nooks and curves. Letting yourself be free can lead to some joy.
  • Have a circle of good friends. Socializing with people who understand you and contribute to your well-being in terms of sharing joys and sorrows, and being accepting and forgiving of you is like medicine on tough days.
  • Staying active, even when your professional limit has ended. Giving up on doing what you love can lead to dissatisfaction in life. Therefore, continuing activities that aid in helping others, or contributing to your world/environment can help you maintain your sense of purpose.
  • Taking things slow is also another way to build quality of life. With a rise in corporate culture, lifestyle tends to be fast paced, which increases the risk of developing various psychophysiological disorders. Taking time to slow down your routine will give you a better meaning in life.
  • Eating responsibly is another way to help you live healthily. ‘Hara hachi bu’ is a Japanese phrase that means ‘Eat until you are 80% full’. This phrase is used by the Okinawans to eat mindfully. Research shows that your brain takes 15-20 minutes to register that your stomach is full. So, by eating 80% of your stomach’s capacity, you would be eating 100%.
  • Stay fit. Your body is the vehicle that helps you move through life. It needs regular exercise and maintenance to keep it going as it deals with the ageing process.

From these tips, you may find your passion, mission, vocation, and profession. After getting an idea about these things, you can align them to find your ‘sweet spot.’ Finding the sweet spot might take some time and effort.

Until then, you can enjoy any of these four factors by making time out for them, be it a hobby, social work, or meeting your close ones.

Ikigai is all about finding small snippets of joy.

The solace a musician gets when performing her compositions to a small but adoring audience is like that a father feels when spending quality time with his wife and children at a park or restaurant.

Everyone’s ikigai is different and so is their journey toward it. But the result is what everyone is looking for.

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