Ikigai. Is this the new hygge? Many of us spend our lives (and paychecks) attempting to find contentment and joy. Some of us practice yoga; others go on retreats in the Himalayas; still others attend weekly mindfulness classes to regain equilibrium or use meditation apps like Headspace. And yet, many of us, despite our best efforts to practice “hygge” (the Danish concept of finding contentment in cozy pursuits) and “lagom” (the Swedish concept of moderate living), continue to struggle.
Until now, maybe.
Here Comes Ikigai: A Japanese Way Of Living Our Life
It is commonly held in Japanese culture that everyone has an “ikigai” or “spark” that motivates them to get up and face the day. Ikigai is a way of actively flagging down a purpose in life, rather than passively suggesting we slow down to find it.
So, What Exactly Is It? Is There A Reason for It?
The Japanese word “ikigai” can be loosely translated as “purpose in life.” To sum up, life is about discovering your true calling and pursuing that which brings you the most joy and inspiration. According to Hector Garcia, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, the word is composed of the kanji for “life,” or “iki,” and “kai,” which means the result of an action.
It boils down to answering the age-old query, “What should I do with my life?”
To elaborate, “Ikigai” in Japanese culture consists of the following four elements:
- Your heart’s desire (Life’s Purpose)
- Your passions in life (work and play)
- What you can make a living doing (Profession or Calling)
- What the World Needs (Your Calling and Mission)
Key To Longevity & Happiness
According to Ken dos Remedios of the Hyper Japan cultural festival,
While it is not impossible to have ‘ikigai’ without social connections, it is easier to feel it by creating social connections, perhaps because of the ingrained social connections Japanese society promotes and Japanese individuals are conditioned to seek.
The concept has its roots in Okinawa, a Japanese island with a rumored high concentration of centenarians. The pursuit of one’s ikigai is thus hypothesized to be not only the secret to contentment but also the secret to a long and healthy life.
How Does Ikigai Work?
The neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, Ken Mogi, explains that the key to discovering your life’s purpose through this trend is to pay attention to the following principles: taking baby steps, being honest with yourself, making meaningful connections with others and the world around you, appreciating the little things in life, and living in the present moment.
To get off to a good start, he recommends thinking about these things right away upon awakening.
Based on the four main pillars discussed above, here are the questions one should ask themselves to discover their Ikigai:
1. And what is it that I adore?
2. What do I excel at?
3. What can I do right now that will earn me money, or what can I do that will give me a leg up in my future endeavors?
4. What does the world need?
10 Ways To Unlock Your Ikigai
Garcia and co-author Francesc Miralles described eleven additional guidelines in their book that can help you uncover your ‘ikigai’. These are some examples:
1. Avoid retiring and stay active.
2. Slow down and let go of the sensation of hurry.
3. Eat until you are just 80% full.
4. Surround yourself with positive people.
5. Maintain your fitness by engaging in daily, mild exercise.
6. Smiling and acknowledging those around you
7. Reestablish contact with nature.
8. Express your appreciation for everything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive.
9. Be present in the moment.
10. Stick to your ikigai.
By adhering to these ten guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to finding your true calling and leading a more meaningful life.
Setting a morning meditation routine can help you find your “Ikigai” and move forward with your day with purpose.
- Begin today with just ten minutes of reading.
- Learn to love and accept yourself. Give yourself three positive affirmations to read whenever you feel down.
- Put your phone in your purse and take in your surroundings; you will be more present and more fulfilled for it.
- Look for the bright side of things and make a list of three things that made you happy today.
- Practice mindfulness by focusing on the present moment while you savor a meal or beverage.
Moods can be altered through simple pleasures, as Mogi puts it. If you change your environment, your brain will adjust to it quickly, and your mood will shift with it.