Be honest. When’s the last time you wondered, “What am I doing here? What is my purpose? What is my passion?” It seems like everyone has it figured out besides you, right? Well, the Japanese have a word for this idea of pursuing your purpose and it’s called ikigai.
Roughly translated, ikigai means ‘reason for being’. You could also describe it as the reason you jump out of bed in the morning (Do you actually do that? If so, you’re already a pro :)). The Japanese philosophy of ikigai is an instruction on finding happiness through being busy and bringing that ever-sought-for feeling of meaning and purpose to your everyday life.
According to Japanese proverbs, “Only staying active will make you want to live to a hundred years.” What is ikigai and how do you actually find it? Let’s dive in!
WHAT IS IKIGAI?
Ikigai is the intersection of what is meaningful to you, what you enjoy doing, and what you’re good at doing.
I like to think that this formula can be applied to your professional and personal life. For your professional life, simply add in what people need and will pay for into the mix. For your personal life, it doesn’t matter what the world wants. It only matters what is purposeful and meaningful to you. I’ve found that I love what I do for work, but I also need an ikigai that’s just for me.
Ikigai is key to a fulfilling life at every age. In fact, ikigai originated in Okinawa where the world’s largest population of centurion’s reside. It’s no surprise that Okinawans always have a purpose since they have no concept of retirement. They don’t even have a word for the idea of stopping work altogether. Pursuing ikigai is a lifelong habit.
HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR IKIGAI?
Do you ever worry because you haven’t found your passion yet? With ikigai, pursuing your purpose is a lifelong endeavor. Your ikigai will likely change over the years. You may have multiple ‘reasons for being’ and at other times, you may have periods where you don’t have an ikigai but you’re looking for it. Through ikigai we learn that your passion doesn’t have to be just one thing for the rest of your life.
If you’re in the stage of looking for your ikigai, how do you find it? Good question. In the official book on ikigai, authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles share ten rules for finding your ikigai. These rules include things like take it slow, surround yourself with good friends, reconnect with nature, smile and even eat until your 80% full. Interesting, huh? I found that these steps mirror the Okinawan lifestyle that appears to lead to a longer lifespan. So perhaps following these steps will help you create the right environment to find your ikigai.
Let’s get into a few actions you can take to find your ikigai:
Take Time to Ponder Outdoors
One of the rules of ikigai the book is to reconnect with nature. Isn’t there something magical about coming up with new ideas in the great outdoors? This reminds me of shower revelations and brainstorming right before bed. If you give yourself space to think, you may be surprised what comes to you.
Your next step: Find a place to walk around outdoors and go. Leave your podcasts and playlists behind so you can really just think. Observe the world around you and let your mind wander. If you’re in the city or in a place where the weather does not permit a good stroll, go to a museum or someplace that you think will give you space and freedom to ponder.
Don’t Panic and Follow Your Curiosity
When you’re feeling lost without a purpose, simply enjoy the process of exploration. Begin a new project that piques your interest—don’t worry about its success or failure. Simply enjoy the process of following your purpose. You will find that you have to actually try things out before you discover it’s your purpose.
Your next action: After you’ve given yourself time to think, start one project that interests you. Don’t put a lot of long-term pressure on yourself to make this your ‘thing’. Learn to enjoy the process of creating and discovering your true ikigai.