WHAT IS YOUR IKIGAI?
Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being“
I first came across this term when researching the Blue Zones of the world. If you’re not familiar with Blue Zones, they are 5 distinct areas and communities around the world where people live the longest. These areas are vastly different from each other, but have commonalities in their foundations around healthy diet through whole foods, tight knit communities, and an active lifestyle. One of these communities is Okinawa, Japan, where they have the world’s longest living women. It’s a beautiful culture and community, but one factor in particular made the Okinawans stand out when researching them.
Okinawans use the term Ikigai regularly to describe to the outside world what literally gets them out of bed in the morning. In fact, if you ask any elderly Okinawan what their Ikigai is, they can readily describe to you what it is. This Ikigai can be anything from their line of work, to their family, to their friends, to their minor or major role within the community. This Ikigai gives them a sense of purpose, a feeling of belonging, and a reason to continue living as their age increases and their health decreases. Having this concept of Ikigai so deeply ingrained in their society is one of the reasons attributed to their incredible longevity, along with several lifestyle factors.
I first read about the Blue Zones, and about Ikigai in particular, about 2 years ago and I’ve always had it in the back of my head since. In a culture such as the States, where status, titles, salaries, and possessions reign king, how beautiful of a thought it is to boil our lives down to a simple term – Ikigai.
So what is your Ikigai?
What is the thing you think about when you’re in the shower, that stirs your imagination with possibility and hope?
What is the one thing you would do with the rest of your life if it could all change when you wake up tomorrow?
What is something, big or small, that would add meaning to your daily life?
Ikigai is not a career. It’s not a destination or a title. It is simply a purpose. That purpose can change and shift with the different stages of life. Maybe your Ikigai is separate from your job or career. Maybe your Ikigai is simply putting food on the table for your family, or instilling values into your children. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be real. It has to come from the heart.
For myself, my Ikigai at this stage of my life is getting the world moving, and making individual impacts on people through my writing. Pursuing those two things day in and day out allow me to wake up content, and lay my head on the pillow excited for what the next day will bring. Maybe you’ve never thought about your Ikigai before. Maybe it’s an entirely new concept. But I hope it’s a concept you’ll run with. I hope it’s something you’ll think about, and allow to shape you. Because the world needs more Ikigai. And it starts with me and you.