What Is Ikigai? How Can It Help You Find Your Purpose?

what is ikigai

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Have you heard about the Japanese concept of Ikigai?

Icky Guy??



I was recently sent the infographic featured in this post and was immediately intrigued to find out what is Ikigai and how can it help us to find our purpose in life?

bonsai tree

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What Is Ikigai?

What do you get out of bed for each morning?

Whether it’s work, travel, family, friends or fitness, the concept of “life’s purpose” is unique to each of us.  However different our individual purposes may be, the concept of passion is universal.

Japanese culture refers to this concept as “Ikigai” (pronounced EE-key-guy). There isn’t a direct English translation for the concept of Ikigai, but it roughly translates to life’s purpose.

Ikigai at its core is found at the intersection of the answers to these four questions:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What are you good at doing?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you be paid for doing?

For example, if you love to swim, are good at writing, know the world needs environmental clean-up and can be paid for research, you could find your life’s purpose working for an environmental nonprofit.

By answering these four questions and finding a commonality in the answers, you can begin to find your life’s purpose.

Ikigai helps us look at our lives as a bigger picture with something to work toward.  Though this is most often applied to work, it can also be applied to our everyday lives.

“Everyday Ikigai” is the process of applying the concept of a purposeful life to our regular life, which includes cultivating strong relationships, eating well and showing gratitude.

Through this, we open ourselves up to a healthier life overall.

Don’t be intimidated by thinking you need to identify your purpose immediately. You can identify your Ikigai in your own time – it all starts with a single step toward mindfulness.

Related Post:  Mindfulness Meditation – An Awesome Way To Calm Your Mind

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Graphic courtesy of hellowbestow.com


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Why Should You Bother?

The principle of Ikigai can give you a reason to look forward to the future by matching your talents and passions with what the world needs.

Not only this, but it could also help you live longer.

The island of Okinawa where Ikigai is practised is known as the “land of the immortals” due to its remarkably high number of people over the age of 100.

Islanders follow the principles of Ikigai and have a unique diet where they only eat until they are 80% full.  It is also thought that another reason the islanders live so long is because the “purpose in life” of the elders is to pass their wisdom on to the younger members of the community.

Japan as a whole also has some of the longest living citizens in the world with an average age of 87 for women and 81 for men.

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What Is Ikigai_ How Can It Help You Find Your Purpose

What Is Ikigai In Professional Life?

In professional life, you can find your Ikigai at the intersection of the four questions shown in the infographic.

To recap, these are:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What are you good at doing?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you be paid for doing?

Many people find they satisfy two of the questions in their professional lives, but often not more than that.

For example, in my case, I work in Human Resources and they pay me for it.

Do I love it?  Not really.

Does the world need it?  I suppose so, but I feel the work I do, mainly in my spare time, on encouraging and supporting others to develop could give so much more.  (I just need someone to pay me for it at some point!)

Steve Jobs is an excellent example of having found his Ikigai professionally.  You may think of him as a tech giant, but his passion was for fine crafts and workmanship.  The products he produced through Apple were a way of expressing this passion.

As I’ve said, you can also apply Ikigai to your everyday life as well as to work and career.  Here’s how.

What Is Ikigai In Everyday Life?

Everyday Ikigai is more about a feeling of “flow”, of being in the moment, taking things slowly, being optimistic, smiling and cherishing imperfections.

Ikigai also embodies the idea of “happiness in living”.

The Little Book of Ikigai talks about a number of key ‘pillars’.

These are:

  • Start small
  • Release yourself
  • Harmony & Sustainability
  • Find the joy in little things
  • Be in the here and now

I also love the idea mentioned in the infographic of doing something you love when you wake up.

Isn’t This The Same As “Hygge”?

candle and flowers

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

There are certainly some similarities with Hygge although, from what I can see, the concept of “getting cosy” doesn’t seem to feature so much in Ikigai.

It is similar to Hygge in that Ikigai is about living in the moment and relishing the simple things in life.

Ways You Won’t Find Your Ikigai

There are a number of things, which we all do, which won’t help you find your Ikigai.  These are.

  • Writing a list (oh dear, this is one of my favourite things to do…)
  • Posting pictures of your lunch on Instagram
  • Dreading your job (or maybe you are lucky and you don’t!)
  • Scrolling your phone with the TV on
  • Multitasking

Instead, why not try the following

  • Take a small step and do one thing at a time
  • Savour your lunch
  • Look for the small blessings in your job
  • Watch the TV show and put your phone down

Finally, have a think, what is one simple thing you could do right now to express your Ikigai?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

If you’ve enjoyed this post then please share it on social media with your friends.  After all, sharing is caring!

Related posts for you:

7 Different Forms Of Mediation And How To Do Them

11 Proven Strategies For A Positve Mental Attitude

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  1. Lori

    I knew my goals with my blog, didn’t realize there was an actual term for it! Ikagai is a new word for me, but it is exactly what I am striving for in life! Thanks for some new info, Alison! You are always so informative!

  2. Tammy Harris

    What a great word and concept, I have never realized I was already doing this 🙂 What a great post and so informative. Thank you for sharing~

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