Ikigai: Japanese secret to a happy and long life


In recent years, you may have started to hear the term “Ikigai” or see its well-known four circle diagram. This philosophy is widely followed within Japanese culture and has now become popularized overseas as the ‘Japanese secret to a happy and long life.’ Ikigai guides individuals to discover their raison d’être or reason for being through many different but integrated aspects of life. This concept believes that applying personal passions and talents to the world will result in the happiness and benefit of being alive. Here we describe the definition and origins of Ikigai and break down the Ikigai diagram. 

What is Ikigai?

Originating from traditional Japanese health principles, Ikigai (ee-key-guy) follows the notion that mental and emotional well-being has a direct effect on one’s physical condition. The term Ikigai goes way back to the 14th century and is composed of two parts: iki meaning life/the state of being alive, and gai referring to benefit or worth. Together they roughly translate to the happiness of living a full life. The Ikigai philosophy unifies various facets of your life to unveil your source of true value and meaning. Your Ikigai is your highest level of desire and it’s what inspires you to get out of bed every morning.  

Explanation of the Ikigai Diagram 

What You Love

This describes the activities and hobbies that are you deeply passionate about at your very core. Whether it’s quality time with loved ones, solo traveling, or growing your plant collection – these are what bring you the greatest joy in your life. Regardless of how good you are at it or whether the world needs it/will pay for it, these interests are what make you feel most alive.  

What You’re Good At

Your special talents and accumulated skills over the course of your lifetime are what represent this sphere. Everyone has a distinctive characteristic that makes them stand out in a certain environment. Despite your fondness for it and the world’s demand for it, this is a particular area where you are gifted.  

What the World Needs

Whether you want to define the ‘world’ as humanity in its entirety or just as your own town/social circle, these are the services that they need. Their demands could range from more school teachers to clean water – but either way, this is their need that is not fulfilled. 

What You Can Be Paid For

The norm for our society is to work for the majority of your lives, and therefore it’s important to also consider the vessel through which you can sustain your living. Your Ikigai doesn’t have to revolve around your career, however, a little practicality and logic should also be factored in.  

How Can I Find My Ikigai?

There are a lot of factors in this diagram to consider, but the good news is that the desire for Ikigai is a universally shared human experience and everyone has their own reason for being. Finding the sweet spot where your interests and skills can come together to also benefit the lives of others is your Ikigai. Many individuals struggle to find their life purpose, however, Ikigai doesn’t have to be an overwhelming dream or something that makes you rich. You can find your Ikigai from that simple feeling that life is worth living. Rather than the outcome, this practice focuses on the journey of reaching your Ikigai. This manner of living is said to provide you with a strong feeling of fulfillment and leave you with the highest and most long-lasting sense of happiness.

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