Updated: Dec 5, 2020
...And How It Can Change Your Life for the Better!
As recent as five years ago, the Japanese concept of Ikigai, and its mysterious allusions to the "secret to life", was relatively unknown to the western world.
Since then, due to the online publications of Marc Winn, and the book "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life" By Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, the concept of Ikigai has made its way into the vocabulary of the western world, and has curiously become synonymous to "joy and happiness" in the realm of online self-help these days.
Let's take a deeper look at what we need to know about Ikigai in 2020!
1) Ikigai Means "a Reason for Being"
It appears the word Ikigai dates back to the Heian period (794 to 1185). It is composed of "iki", which means life, and "gai" or "kai", which means “shell” in Japanese (which were considered extremely valuable during that period). Ikigai therefore derived as a word that means "value in living" or "a reason for being".
From Wikipedia: "Ikigai (生き甲斐) (pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being". The word refers to having a meaningful direction or purpose in life, constituting the sense of one's life being made worthwhile, with actions (spontaneous and willing) taken towards achieving one's ikigai resulting in satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life."
2) Ikigai is Rare and Valuable (Mathematically Speaking!)
In its purest and most uncomplicated form, Ikigai really just means to pursue what really gives your life meaning (purpose), and to practice these things as much as possible daily. By doing so, while being mindful and in the "here and now", one can live their life with purpose each day.
The Ikigai that the majority of the world has now latched onto, is actually the "westernized" version of Ikigai, and quite honestly, the one that fits within a capitalistic society whereby money is not just needed to be happy, but to sustain basic living expenses alone, as a couple or as a family.
Note: You can actually read a very interesting article here, written by Nicholas Kemp, an Ikigai coach, online business consultant and Japanologist, that details the history of "how Ikigai became westernized".
Mathematically speaking, the "newly adopted" Ikigai is represented as the intersection of 4 different sets:
A: What you LOVE
B: What you are GOOD AT
C: What the world NEEDS
D: What you can be PAID FOR
Which results in Ikigai = A ∩ B ∩ C ∩ D.
How significant is this? Very much so actually!
Ikigai sits in the middle of the four sets, 1 out of 13 possible areas to live within. From a simplistic point of view, a mere 7% of total life/career possibilities. It is due to this rarity that the true value of Ikigai emerges from.
Finding Ikigai may not be easy, but once you do, it will be LIFE-ALTERING and extremely powerful!
Think of it. We all know someone who is close to achieving their Ikigai, but that is not truly fulfilled. I was one of them! In the last several months before making the career shift to coaching, I was a typical B ∩ C ∩ D case. I can truly attest that, as the diagram states, I felt "comfortable, but feeling of emptiness".
Only by lining up all four elements does one truly feel fulfilled, and living a life of purpose.
3) Ikigai is Unique for Everyone
The beauty of Ikigai is that it will vary from one person to the next. It is like a unique design blueprint for each individual that intertwines who we are, with the environment around us, to hopefully create a life path that is meaningful to us, and us alone.
What one person considers Ikigai can actually be the complete opposite for the person next to them!
As mentioned earlier, not only is Ikigai completely personal, it is also very unique to find in our society (remember the 7%?) due to social stigma and projections of those around us, who may be well-intended, but simply veering us in a life direction that they wanted for themselves.
In a western society where the majority are conditioned by mass media, social media and those that surround them, it is very easy to fall prey to "what we're supposed to do". It is rare that Ikigai is "born into". On the contrary, it must be sought out, found or revealed.
4) Ikigai is Not "All-or-Nothing"
If one has not yet found their Ikigai, it does not mean that they need to drop everything in their life, throw their hands up and self-proclaim themselves as "not living a life worth living" or question every single one of their life choices!
Finding one's Ikigai can be as simple as committing to, and taking tangible action towards, one basic principle: getting closer to it each day.
You can start small, with simple enjoyment of the things that you love, and truly being in the present moment while enjoying them. Love music and are pretty damn good at writing songs and music production? Don't worry about releasing an entire album. Just write a single song, one that means something to you. The sheer joy and sense of purpose that you will unlock from that experience will propel to the next thing, and then the next, until your Ikigai will reveal itself in all of its glory!
Think of Ikigai like conditioning a muscle, a "life" muscle that we all have, that we can choose to work out each day to get us closer to a reason for living.
5) Ikigai Can (And Should) Change Your Life
Deciding to pursue your Ikigai can be a daunting task, but it can also be the most rewarding thing that you decide to do in life, if it means that true purpose is found. Call it "life purpose", "source of joy" or "what fulfills you in life", we can all use a little more Ikigai in our lives these days.
At the time of writing, the world is begrudgingly hurtling towards the 2020 COVID-19 holiday season after a nine month, on-and-off lockdown, lifestyle reset. I cannot think of a better time to seriously consider what is important to you, and your loved ones, and to see if your collective happiness is not just around the corner, as your Ikigai waiting to be found.
The important thing is taking the time to speak to your soul, and not be afraid of the voice that speaks back.
Enjoy exploring and knowing that you are getting closer to your Ikigai one step at a time! Imagine a life truly lived, every moment spent never really feeling like you are toughing it through life, doing exactly what you were meant to be doing for yourself and your family?
Your Ikigai can make it a reality.