Ikigai, Japanese Life Philosophy


Ever heard of ikigai, the Japanese life philosophy that comes from Okinawa island? This notion of happiness is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

In Japan, "ikigai" stands for "reason to live" or "reason to be". It is a concept that consists in finding meaning in one's life so as to feel like waking up in the morning with a smile.

The idea... feeling happy to exist, no matter what. This propensity to happiness would even play a part in the quality of life and health. This is one of the secrets of the longevity of the inhabitants of Okinawa, an island renowned for its many centenarians. This practice has become so popular that it's also spreading to the West.

Today, we will take a look at how to find your ikigai and why it is involved in improving your life.

🤔 What is ikigai?

Sense of life, healthy eating, physical activity

Meaning of life / healthy eating / physical activity. Source : Pixabay

In Japanese "iki" means "living, life" and "gai" can be translated as "interest, reward or result". This word expresses the idea of self-realization or the meaning of life, that which makes life worth living. This concept first appeared in the Heian period and has been adopted by the Okinawa residents as part of their daily life along with healthy eating and physical exercise.

This ancestral philosophy was then popularized by Akirhiro Hasegawa, a famous Japanese psychologist before being introduced in the West as a personal development tool.

The ikigai actually is the perfect balance between 4 elements:

  • what you love,
  • what you are good at,
  • what you are paid for,
  • what the community needs.

    Between passion, profession, mission and vocation lies the secret to a happy and fulfilled life...

    🤫 Okinawa centenarians' reason for being

    Okinawa village of centenarians

    Okinawa village of longevity. Source: Unsplash

    According to scientists, the world record of longevity is located in the north of Okinawa, in the village of Ogimi, symbolically called "village of longevity".

    You might think that nutrition is the primary explanation for this remarkable phenomenon... and yet, a study proves that it is rather social relationships that would predominate in all factors of longevity.

    In other words, the study shows that a more traditional lifestyle, along with a healthy diet and regular physical exercise, will improve health.

    However, the most important elements are undoubtedly happiness and social factors.

    The inhabitants of Okinawa have a less developed way of life and are closer to nature than those in industrialized countries. They consume fresh products, quality water and breathe clean air while exercising and practicing meditation. The altitude, the relief, the absence of alcohol, tobacco and stress all contribute to their exceptional lifestyle.

    Moreover, we notice that the population of the island is particularly welded and maintains a positive state of mind. And that is the key to this longevity.

    All this is thanks to hormones that are released when we feel good with others: oxytocin and dopamine. These hormones of happiness would protect cells from aging.

    The concept of ikigai, which consists in finding your happiness in life, is therefore very important in order to lead a long and joyful life. But it goes even further, because for the inhabitants of Okinawa, which are tinged with spirituality, everything that is lived must be carried by a deep meaning...

    According to the residents of the village of longevity, to follow your ikigai, all that is needed is to live without stress, with good eating habits, maintain social relationships, take your time and adopt an optimistic mindset. In order to achieve this, you need to find your life goals and allow them to guide you.

    The good news is that, according to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. Everyone has a talent that gives meaning to their life!

    😁 So, why should you find your ikigai?

    Shine from the inside out

    Source: Unsplash

    Finding your ikigai is a kind of like finding your reason to live. Whether you're in a career transition or just a little tired of life, ikigai will give meaning to what you do. In addition to being happy to welcome the day ahead, you will also understand what makes you so special, your value in this world, and that which makes you shine from both inside and outside, just like a star. 

    Thanks to ikigai you will discover a new dimension to your life, being more fulfilled while preserving the balance between your professional and personal life. As we have seen before, not only does ikigai have the power to make you happy but also to make you live longer.

    Nice proposal, but how to put this personal development approach into practice? Let's find out in the next paragraph.

    👉 How to find your ikigai?

    find your ikigai

    Do you also wish to cultivate your ikigai and to improve your life by adopting this ancestral philosophy, proven by many Okinawan people?

    Did you know that there exists a simple method to find your ikigai?

    First of all, draw the ikigai diagram on a sheet of paper to clearly visualize the concept.

    💕 What do you love to do?

    Ask yourself what you like to do, what are your passions, your interests in life? Write down everything that pops into your head and then look for the commonality between all these activities. Why do these things drive you, what is the deeper message? Once you have the answer, you can complete the "What you love" part of the ikigai diagram.

    😏 What are you good at?

    To answer this question, consider all the things you do that seem simple and natural. Friends and family often notice these things. You may also ask them. List all your skills, qualities and strengths, even those that seem insignificant. When you have figured it out, fill in the "What you are good at" part on the drawing.

    🌎 What the World needs?

    This is where you will search for your mission. To do so, look at the world around you and connect with others. What are the dominant problems in society? How can you improve the lives of others here or elsewhere? Be empathetic, ask yourself what moves you or upsets you. What is important to you? This will help you find meaning in your life. Write your answers in the "What the World needs" circle.

    💰 What you can be paid for?

    Unfortunately, money is still a necessity to achieve your goals. Make a list of everything that makes you wealthier (salary, income...) and figure out how to maximize your income. Try to make the connection between what you love and what you are good at to find your career path, then complete the "What you can be paid for" section.

    Now, resume the completed ikigai diagram, analyze and cross-reference the information to find a possible profession, mission, vocation and passion in line with the different focuses. Lastly, look for one or more activities that might match all these criteria. This is your ikigai; what your life is worth living for. For sure, nothing is frozen, your ikigai can evolve with you all along your destiny!


    Every human being wonders about the very essence of his or her existence. If the ikigai tries to bring an answer to this great mystery, it also has the merit of greatly improving your life and at the same time your health.

    What about you, have you found your ikigai? This Japanese life philosophy that strives for happiness?

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