Ikigai: How One Japanese Word Can Help You Find Your Reason For Living

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Ikigai: How One Japanese Word Can Make You HappyRecently, I stumpled upon a book called ‘ikigai’. It was right next to the ‘hygge’ book and a book with some other Scandinavian title. And even though I love that kind of stuff, I must admit, that I immediately thought of it as a hype. One worth writing about, for sure, but still, a hype. But when I found out a bit more about it, something clicked.

What is Ikigai?

‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese word, that was introduced to the Japanese language in 2001 by clinical psychologist and associate professor Akihiro Hasegawa. The origins of the actual word are a bit unclear, but it appears to be a contraction of the Japanese word for ‘life’ (ikuru) and ‘realising your hopes and dreams’ (‘kai’). Combined, they are ‘reason for living’ or ‘purpose of life‘.

Don’t get freaked out right way: the English word ‘life’ is often interpreted as ‘lifetime’, so forever. However, for the Japanese this can also be ‘daily life’. So it’s more like ‘a reason for getting out of bed every morning’.

How to find your ikigai

Your ikigai can be defined as the combination of answers to the following questions:

♥ Love: what do you love?

♥ Skills: what are you good at?

♥ Others: what can you do for the world?

♥ Reward: what can you get paid for?

The combination of what you love and what you’re good at, is your passion. The combination of what you’re good at and whwat you can get paid for, is your profession. Between what you can get paid for and what you can offer the world, is your vocation. And between what you can offer the world and what you love, is your mission.

Your passion, profession, vocation, and mission are all very important. However, it is even more important to find a sweetspot between those four aspects.

Related post: Words Matter: How Choosing The Right Words Can Make You Happy

Don’t get stuck on a three-legged chair

It gets even more complex, so I thought it would be best to illustrate all of this with a great picture I found on the internet. It shows where you can find your ikigai, and why it isn’t smart to be satisified with just two or three OK elements:

Ikigai: One Japanese Word that Will make you happy
Image: Toronto star Graphic

If you do something you love, what you’re good at and what you can get paid for, it sounds great. However, chances are that you will still feel a bit useless and empty. After all; you’re not really following your vocation or mission.

And if you do something you love, what you’re good at and what the world needs, but don’t get paid? That might make you feel goed, but it doesn’t give you wealth. It’s OK, but it’s not a full circle.

When I read about this, I immediately had to think of a chair. It’s not impossible to sit on a chair with one leg missing, but it’s just better to have them all.

Read more: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To a Long and Happy Life

Let’s think about this

Like I said, I first thought that ‘ikigai’ was a hype, a trend. A nice subject to write an article about, but nothing really profound. However, as I started researching the subject, I started to think about it more and more. If I look at my life, I think I often sit on a chair with just two or three legs. What if I can find my fourth leg. Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?

So I decided to follow the ‘slow’ Japanese approach to finding my ikigai. I put a large piece of paper on my pinboard, with the four circles in it. In the next days or weeks, I’ll add items for every category. Things I love, things I can make money with, things I can offer the world and things I am good at.

Just by writing this article, the thought process has started. By creating the list and adding to it, I’ll keep it active and hopefully, I’ll find whatever my reason for jumping out of the bed every morning is.

Have you heard of ‘ikigai’? And regardless of that; do you jump out of bed every morning, or could your chair use some additional legs?

Related post: Why You Should Stop Giving A F***

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Ikigai: Find Your Reason To Jump Out Of Bed In The Morning

Adine @ Average To Awesome

33-year old Dutchie with a passion for minimalism, doing more with less, and financial independence. And cats. Lots of cranky old cats.

9 Comments
  1. Wow! This just inspired me to start this process, I need to sit down and write this in details…. While reading I was thinking about the things I am good at and how I can make the best of them. Thank you so much, Adine 🙂

  2. Well I was excited to read this because I’m super proud of my Japanese heritage…gotta say…GENIUS! I will be heading to the library to find some books on this! Sounds right up my alley. Like I should cancel all my plans for the day and start making my circles! haha Thanks for this awesome read!

  3. Love it! It’s such a simple but beautiful concept. This is a really thorough but to-the-point guide on how to find something that touches all bases – passion, talent, and financial fulfillment – in order to live a more meaningful life.

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