Ikigai: The Japanese Way of Finding Your Purpose

There are different countries globally where the population tends to live well beyond the 80-year mark. Many of these people live to be over the age of 100. Much of the focus on this subject is given to the Island of Japan and the surrounding area.

The food that the Japanese harvest from the sea, include fish, shellfish, and different forms of kelp, which all contribute to a longer life. However, research has shown that many of those who live to age 100 have followed the idea of Ikigai.

Approximately 1,200 years ago in the Heian period, people began to look at doing valuable work that gave their life its true purpose. This may have been specialized pottery, sword making, or even a specific type of fishing. The modern-day has many Japanese people doing very similar work. It may be a career for them or, in the case of the elderly, a purpose that helps them live a longer, more joyful life.

Many research studies have been done on the people of the Okinawa islands, close to Japan. The islands are comprised of about 150 small islands in total, with a population that has incredible longevity. The islanders are known for things such as their form of karate, their craftwork, and their diet. Researchers concluded that diet alone was not responsible for longevity and that Ikigai plays a role.

The human body produces many different types of hormones, and some are called “happy hormones.” These particular hormones get released into the body as a person does something that gives them great pleasure and a sense of purpose. It is thought that the Japanese people who follow the idea of Ikigai benefit more than others who use just diet and exercise to maintain the body. There is less stress and disease, as the happy hormones assist with this daily when a person works or plays with purpose.

The Japanese population in the workforce uses the idea of Ikigai to fulfill a meaningful life full of purpose, and they break it down into these elements, with Ikigai being at the center. Think of it as a mindmap for purpose with branches such as:

– Profession

– Vocation

– How will you earn money?

– What do you excel at?

– What do you love to do?

– What are you great at doing?

– How can you use your gift to help the world?

– What is your mission in life?

As you consider the questions above, experts on the concept of Ikigai suggest that you expand on the questions to find your life’s purpose. Take each question and write out your answer. After doing this for each point, you will identify what you should be doing in life.

For example, using the question about what you love to do, you could use writing.

Start by writing out why you love to write. What is it about crafting fiction stories that makes you feel so good? If fiction is not what you like, why is non-fiction so pleasing to you? Go through each question, and be sure to write out how your gift of writing would help the world. Would your fiction bring happiness or inspire others in some form? Would your non-fiction help people to change physically or mentally for the better?

Finding your Ikigai takes time and thought. Remember that it may not be permanent as your situation changes or as you age. You may end up shifting it slightly. There are a number of questions to ask yourself, and it is always a good idea to ask trusted friends and family for input.

As an example, you may have considered writing, but you are not positive that it is your true calling. You ask a friend for their opinion, and they tell you, “I’ve seen you writing, and your face lights up. You look positively joyful as you craft words. I think writing is in your blood.” Gathering information from others will help you to discover your true Ikigai.