Finding Life’s Purpose With Ikigai


Very often we wonder about our purpose.  Early in our lives, the fire and excitement of youth and our goals and ambitions keep us occupied in various ways.  But at some point in time, this question starts coming up in each of us – “What is my purpose in this life ?”

Most of our lives revolve around our home, family, work, and friends.  We have built our routine around these few things and lost that sense of exploration and curiosity of creating new experiences.  Especially during these pandemic times, where many face financial hardship, lockdowns, and social distancing, much of what we thought was our “life” is in a holding pattern, leaving us feeling caged in and locked out of options.  If only we had sustained that sense of wonder.  So, instead of getting angry, frustrated, and depressed, it is important we rethink our purpose and what we want to do.

There is where the concept of Ikigai (pronounced Ik – ee – gai) comes in.  Ikigai has its origin in  Okinawa – a Japanese  island – home to probably the largest population of happy centenarians.  Ikigai in Japanese means “life’s purpose” or in other words – that which gets you out of bed every morning. It could be as simple as – gardening, walking, yoga, volunteering etc.  And finding those one or two things you deeply care about that keep you excited, engaged, and passionate daily is your purpose – your Ikigai.

Hector Garcia, the co-author of “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”, says “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing”.  Even though ikigai can be around amassing wealth, usually having purpose around something larger than material acquisition is what sustains it.

So, how do you find your ikigai? The principle and concept of ikigai is built around these 4 questions.

  • What you love doing
  • What the world needs
  • What you are good at
  • Can you get paid for it

For starters you can reflect on the things that you do daily and see if any of these activities add purpose and meaning to your life.  Go through the list and apply the above questions.  If the answer is yes, then what you are doing right now is adding purpose to your life.  But don’t sweat it, if cannot find your ikigai activity immediately.  One simple way to find your ikigai is to reflect on the things you did as a kid that made you come alive. Perhaps, you can pick them up again with the same childhood excitement.  Or you can look for something completely new that piques your interest to continue for the foreseeable future.

As ikigai is all about finding joy in life through purpose, staying active and involved in different things beyond the daily chores makes it easier to find that purpose.  As our life situation changes, we alter our life’s purpose, so it can become a constant source of joy.  As a result your Ikigai can change over time. However, frequently evaluating the reasons that get you out of bed every morning is important.

Above all, we have to always remember that it is because we are alive and conscious, we are able to think and make choices about how we want to live. Being in a state of Gratitude to just be alive and experiencing this wonderful existence brings a deep sense of joy and peace. Therefore, it would behoove us to keep reminding ourselves that being alive here and now is the most important thing.  Everything else that we do are add ons.  That can be your starting point for finding your Ikigai.



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