If you’re looking for something to give you extra oomph in life, then look no further than the concept of ikigai (pronounced ick-ee-guy), which roughly translates to “reason for being”. It’s a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical.
Basically it’s supposed to give you a reason to get out of bed every morning that doesn’t involves having to get out of bed in the morning.
So if you want to find your purpose, start with the things that make you feel good. Ken Mogi, neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your ikigai, told Well and Good that knowing what your purpose is doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with your vocation, but rather it’s about finding things that make you truly happy.
The process usually involves five major pillars: starting small, accepting yourself, connecting with others and the planet, finding joy in little things, and being present.
Habits that tick off one or more of these goals will help you get closer to finding your ikigai and will make your day happier.
So instead of thinking that if I had this thing, or if I had this much money I would be happier, finding your ikigai means learning to embrace the small things that contribute to what makes you happiest.
“Examples of ikigai are often related to aspects of social identity — including work and family life — but they're often explained as something more than that. It’s the idea of seeking a purpose in everything you do in life. Hobbies, friendships, community and travel all add to your ikigai,” says Darling Magazine.
You need to fill your life with things you want to do in addition to the responsibilities you have. Start your morning with these things and it will make you happier and more fulfilled. For example if you love to meditate or you’re really into a book right now, set aside 10 minutes to close your eyes and meditate or decide to finish another chapter of that book so you feel like you’ve already done something for you that day.
Or actually sit down and enjoy your morning cup of coffee instead of drinking it quickly before you leave for work. Eat an actual breakfast that you enjoy completely or dance to your favourite music while you get dressed and ready for work.
It might seem small and insignificant, but these little things can make a big difference. You’re the person you spend the most time with after all, so you should enjoy that time when you can. As Mogi says to Well and Good: “It is crucial to realise that moods can be changed through small joys. The fact is once the context is changed, your brain will adapt to that new context and moods can change in a short time.”
A software engineer, Hector Garcia, also co-wrote a book called Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. After learning about the concept, Hector and co-writer Frances Miralles travelled to Ogima in Okinara to find of there was any link between ikigai and longevity. Which makes sense since Ogima is nicknamed the “Village of Longevity”.
They interviewed its residents and found that “Ikigai reveals the secrets to their longevity and happiness: how they eat, how they move, how they work, how they foster collaboration and community, and—their best-kept secret—how they find the ikigai that brings satisfaction to their lives,” says the book blurb.
“Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing,” says Hector.
And while I’m not selling ikigai as a replacement for therapy or medication, I am saying that this can definitely be a tool in your arsenal of self-care tips. It’s all about doing things for you after all, and how can that be so bad if you’re not hurting anybody?
According to Medium, ikigai is the convergence of four primary elements:
- What you love (your passion)
- What the world needs (your mission)
- What you are good at (your vocation)
- What you can get paid for (your profession)
And discovering your own ikigai will bring you fulfilment, happiness and could help you live longer.
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