The Formula to Finding Purpose: How to Find Your Ikigai

How to Find Your IkigaiIkigai is a Japanese philosophy that has been in existence for many centuries and has surrounded the way the Japanese live. It’s believed to date back to the Heian period, between 794 and 1185. Some people even believe that it’s the reason why they bask in happiness and live long.

To break it down a bit more, iki in Japanese means life and gai describes worth or value. Therefore the term means reason for being. Your ikigai is your bliss, your life purpose. It’s what brings you joy and motivates you to get out of bed every morning. The whole concept of ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. It holds that physical wellbeing is affected by a person’s mental and emotional health as well as their sense of purpose in life. Michiko Kumano, a Japanese psychologist said that ikigai is a state of well-being that comes about from being devoted to the activities that one enjoys whatever brings them a sense of fulfillment.

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Have you ever wondered why the Japanese live for so long? Japan is ranked second in the world for life expectancy, with women expected to live for 88.09 years and the men at 81.91 years. A Japanese island south of the mainland known as Okinawa is known to have the highest proportion of people over a hundred years in the world, and ikigai plays a huge role in their culture. Diet indeed plays a huge role in these figures, but many Japanese people believe their happy life and longevity have a lot to do with the reason for being. But it isn’t just something that’s associated with the elderly. It’s also becoming very popular with the much younger generations both in and out of Japan who want to have meaningful lives.

A longer and happier life aside, knowing your ikigai can help you design your ideal work lifestyle, create strong social connections at your place of work, create a healthy balance between work and everyday life, as well as pursue your dreams and enjoy the work you do. When you find your ikigai, and understand what it means, you’re aligned with the work you’ve always wanted to, and the work that the world needs you to do. And it comes as no surprise that westerners have chosen to adopt this philosophy as a way of finding a meaningful career.

Take note that although traditional Japanese philosophy concentrates on finding your bliss, western culture has a slightly different interpretation. They use ikigai as a way of finding their dream career. And according to this western version, you’ve found your dream career when your career includes these four qualities.

The Formula to Finding Purpose

1. What you love

Your ikigai should be something you enjoy doing. It can be anything that makes you feel good, something you would willingly do any time. Something that excites you when you talk about it or that you would gladly do in a heartbeat. What is it you enjoy doing? Do you love taking pictures, writing, dancing, baking, and making videos? Well, that’s what you should do.

2. What you are good at

Another thing to think about is what you are, or what you’d like to be good at. This includes anything that comes naturally to you, or maybe there’s something that you’re ready and willing to learn, something you’re working hard to attain. These are skills that you’ve acquired with time and can turn into something profitable. This brings us to the next point.

3. What you can get paid or rewarded for

You should know what you can get rewarded for financially. We need money for survival. To support our daily needs and cover our expenses. Therefore your ikigai should be something you can get paid for. Loving what you do or being good at it sometimes isn’t enough. It’s important to be properly compensated for it too.

4. What the world needs

The fourth component of finding your ikigai is something that a community or the world as a whole needs. We get this good feeling knowing that what we’re doing helps make the world a better place. We feel like we’re playing a huge role in our community. It helps you get closer to your ikigai knowing your work has the potential to change lives.

There’s a Venn diagram that shows the intersection of these four points. And from it, we get to understand all about our passion, mission, profession, and vocation. Passion If you have something that you love and are good at, you’ve found your passion. But to find your purpose, you need to turn it into something that will earn you an income, and that’ll also benefit other people. Mission If you have something that you love and it’s also what the world needs, then you’re someone with a mission. Such people advocate for what they believe in. You get a sense of fulfillment, knowing you’re making a difference in people’s lives even though you aren’t being properly compensated for it.

Profession You have a profession if you’re someone who has something they’re good at and are getting paid for it. As a professional, you earn money doing something you’ve mastered. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing what you love or something that benefits the world. To find your ikigai, you might want to figure out what you enjoy doing and how it can help make a difference in the world. Vocation You have something that the world needs, and you’re getting paid for it. But not all people pursue a vocation like what they do or are knowledgeable enough to be considered experts. To turn your vocation into your ikigai, you can sharpen your skills in what you do at work or gain more experience and become an expert in your field. Once you’ve turned your vocation into something you can do well, and eventually feel some enjoy doing it, you may find your ikigai. Below are the ten rules that will help you find your reason for being, from the book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia.

How to Find Your Ikigai

1. Stay active

When we give up doing the things we love, we easily lose our purpose in life. That’s why it’s important to continue doing the things of value, make progress and help shape the world around us however we can, even when officially our professional activity has come to an end. Fun fact about the Japanese language is that there is no word for retire in the sense of leaving the workforce as in English. So basically, we shouldn’t stop doing what we were placed on this earth to do.

2. Take it slow

Walk slowly and you’ll go far. When we put urgency behind us, life and time take on a new meaning. Just take a deep breath and go with the flow. Take one step at a time, and before you know it, you’re already there. Being in a hurry and trying to rush things only dampens the quality of life. Focus on making your life better and put the sense of urgency at the back of your mind.

3. Don’t fill your stomach

Adopt the concept used by the Japanese, hara tachi bu, which means eating until you’re eighty percent full. When it comes to eating for long life, less is more too. What you eat affects how you feel. If you eat healthily, you think healthy, and you feel healthy too. But if you overindulge, you tend to overthink and quite easily feel overwhelmed. That’s why the rule encourages eating healthy and preferably a little less than what you’re capable of.

4. Smile

Always acknowledge the people around you. Things are not always great, but we should never forget that being in the here and now, in a world full of endless possibilities is a privilege.

5. Get in shape for your next birthday

Water is at its best when it flows fresh and doesn’t stagnate. Your body needs maintenance. Work out whenever you have the chance. It can be an activity you like doing like jogging, aerobics, or martial arts as long as you’re exercising the body. Remember that a daily walk is better than a high-impact workout once or twice a week.

6. Surround yourself with good friends

Friends play a vital role in your life. You can confide in them, share stories, get advice from them and have a good time. This rule highlights the importance of interpersonal relationships. In the absence of friendships and relationships, we can’t know how it feels to connect, to love, nor can we share our joys, our struggles, our hopes, and our fears.
The way society is nowadays, with everyone spending more time glued to their screens rather than spending time with friends and loved ones, this rule reminds us why friendships are important and all the benefits that come with them. Instead of scrolling through social media for hours, why not call an old friend and catch up.

7. Reconnect with nature

Although most of us live in the city, human beings are made to be part of nature. And once in a while, we should take time to be more in tune with it to recharge our batteries, or if anything to have a change of scenery. There’s a Japanese word, shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing. And this usually involves connecting with nature using the five senses, those being sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It’s a kind of mindfulness practice that helps you reconnect with nature so that you can rejuvenate, revitalize your body, and give your mind a moment of peace.

8. Give thanks

Remember to give thanks to your ancestors, to nature which provides you with the air that you breathe and the food you eat. To your friends and family, and to everything that makes your days brighter and makes you feel so lucky to be alive. As you take a moment each day to be grateful, you get to watch as your happiness continues to grow too.

9. Live in the moment

We should stop regretting what happened in the past and fearing what lies ahead in the future. Today is all we have and should make the most out of it. We should make it worth remembering. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning and close them in the night, we are constantly thinking about ourselves. Our mind conjures one worry and then another, and we forget to be aware, to be present, to be mindful and alive in each moment. In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle wrote that the present moment is all you ever have. There is never a time when your life is not this moment.

10. Follow your ikigai

Inside you there is a passion, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. And if you’re yet to find out what your ikigai is, your mission, as Viktor Frankl puts it, is to discover it. Whether consciously or not, searching for one’s ikigai, a person’s reason for being, or waking up in the morning, is what many of us do already. Even though the meaning of ikigai varies from one person to another, it might be safe to say that finding this motivating purpose in life is linked to greater fulfillment and happiness.

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