Ikigai – The Japanese Secret for a Long and Happy Life

In Japan, people have learned to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. That’s because they are aligned with their ikigai! Let’s explore what is behind this ikigai and see what we can learn to improve our lives as well.

The Japanese island of Okinawa happens to have one of the largest population of centenarians. They have accomplished an extraordinary longevity. Even for Japanese standards. Researchers found the reason behind this amazing achievement was due to people living their ikigai.

Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.

The Okinawans don’t have a word for retirement. Instead, they keep using ikigai or “the reason for getting up” to define their purpose of life. You can do the same by adjusting your mindset. Free yourself from having your purpose of life just linked to either your work or your ability to earn money. Your life wouldn’t stop being “of purpose” once you stop working.

Have you ever realized that when you get to meet new people it’s very common to get introduced from an angle of profession or job. There are studies suggesting (early-) retirement may be a cause for an earlier death.

Blue Zones

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow, New York Times-bestselling author, explorer and researcher wrote “Blue Zones: Lessons on Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” and found there are just five so called “blue zones” with extraordinary longevity around the world.

Inhabitants of blue zones usually share a specific concept of “how to live life” which is the reason they indeed do enjoy longer than average lives.

The concept of ikigai is the most impactful of them.

You can replicate it for your life as well!

What is Ikigai?

Please see the below diagram to illustrate “Ikigai”. Ikigai is the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing on one side – this can also be called your “passion” – and of what the world needs and what you can be paid for on the other side.

In his book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” Hector Garcia writes how chasing money without true purpose instead focusing on adding value to society and happiness is not healthy.

Did you know NOT living your true life is the number one regret of the dying?

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Bronnie Ware

How To Find and Live Your “Ikigai”?

1. What do you love?

How do you usually spend your time if it’s not for money? What activities do you enjoy the most? Does time just fly by when you are usually engaged in these activities? Most people know the answers to these questions. It’s easy to know what you enjoy.

Step 1: Write down a list of activities that you enjoy doing.

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.

2. What does the world need?

Start thinking from a problem perspective. What problems in this world need to be solved? Try to think from an angle of identifying problems that interest you and tickle your passion again. The bigger the problem, the more opportunities you might find going after.

Step 2: Make a list of problems in this world you care for.

People don’t pay you for following your passion, they pay you to satisfy a need.

These first two questions are the core of finding Ikigai: Match what you love with what is needed. They build the foundation for the next two questions.

3. What are you good at?

If you ask your friends and family how would they reply to this question on your behalf? What are you especially good at? What can you do better than others?

Everyone has some skills they excel at. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses. While it’s easier to work with existing talents, don’t despair: With putting in time and effort you can acquire many skills these days.

Step 3: List up your talents, ask your friends and family for help if needed!

The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.

4. What can you be paid for?

Depending on what you could offer, it’s possible to get paid for pretty much anything. Promoting and getting paid for services, products or work has never been easier. With the internet, social media and other tools finding customers that are willing to spend money is the key step here.

While this sounds easier, it might be the most difficult step. Be creative and keep trying. People promoting their passion services and products have a clear and sustainable advantage over businesses and others out there!

People don’t buy from companies; they buy from people.

Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.

5. Final Step

The final step of this exercise is to put the above findings together in a meaningful way and come to a conclusion. Going through the above four steps and line of thoughts you should get more clarity towards which direction you might want to be heading.

The intersection of all four areas is where you achieve Ikigai.

Should you have problems going through the above exercise I’d highly recommend you some Jacuzzi Beerstorming to up your creativity and imagination.

Imagineer Your [Ikigai] Life

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

If you don’t design your life [plan], chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan instead. Should you have a partner, I highly recommend to get aligned.

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

Japanese proverb

Living your ikigai is not something easily achieved. It takes time. The key part is to get the process started and keep moving into the right direction. You will learn a lot on the way, keep learning.

Once you stop learning, you start dying.

This world needs more people that have become truly alive. The problem with the large majority of people is that at one point in time they stop being curious. They no longer care about new ideas, experiences and solutions as they assume responsibilities. Then they build and get stuck in their daily routines. Don’t be like them.

Stay curious and creative.

You will grow and can finetune and adjust your path on the journey. Finding and living your Ikigai is difficult but so much worth it!

Dare to make time in your life for a satisfying occupation, a meaningful contribution to society, make time for your family and hobbies.

“My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

Miles Davis

Time to get started! Imagineer your dream life!

Now my question to you is, are you excited to wake up tomorrow?

Matt

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