In Japan, Ikigai is your reason to live, your purpose in life. Rather than having one or several goals, one may have hundreds of Ikigai. It is the small things that bring pleasure and happiness to our lives like enjoying a spectacular sunset or reading your favourite book. Ultimately it is achieving a sense of value in life, we are not labels such as mother, teacher, manager; we raise children, instill knowledge in others or co-ordinate groups of people to achieve great things.
Contrastingly, without a sense of purpose we can feel down or depressed. Think of a time when you haven’t wanted to get out of bed in the morning, maybe the weather was bad and any plans you had for the day were dashed. Maybe it is the typical Monday morning having to get up and start the weekly routine of going to work at a job you are not happy at. Compare this to a time when you were happy to leap out of bed. Maybe this was earlier than usual to catch that plane abroad for your holiday or you were starting a new term at college or a new job.
Ikigai is also associated with taking pride in any task we are doing, from mowing the lawn to cleaning the house, taking time to enjoy the process as much as the end result. This is achieved by immersing yourself in the task and not rushing to finish.
Achieving balance between work and life outside work is important. Hobbies, exercise and sports all help achieve parity.
Finding your Ikigai may require some deep thinking, you may already have it and not realise, maybe it’s raising a young family, maybe it’s the sport you excel in. You can also study how to achieve it. There a now thousands of books and online resources to help you find a sense of purpose, set goals achieve happiness.
Your purpose in life may change. If our purpose is simply the work we do then what happens when we retire and suddenly our purpose has gone? It maybe that we need more than one purpose, more reasons to get out of bed in the morning.
The Japanese build a sense of community with small groups of close friends that help each other. I think we have lost this concept in the UK. You can still find it in small villages and rural communities but how many of us living in larger towns and cities even know our neighbours that well? How many of us are too busy to help a friend move house?
I remember multiple occasions when I was young when my dad would pop round and help his family. Sometime they would get together at one family members house to decorate. Later they would reciprocate perhaps by helping to fix another’s car. Being able to support friends and family by offering your knowledge can create a great sense of purpose.
Key concepts of Ikigai:
- Having a purpose in life
- A reason to get out of bed every morning
How to practise Ikigai:
- Write down the things that really motivate you
- List lots of small goals and how you are going to achieve them, not just one large end goal (it is the journey not the destination that can bring the greatest pleasure)
- Help out a friend or family member
- Sign up for some voluntary work