Ikigai. Perhaps you’ve heard it spoken amongst self-care Twitter, or maybe this is the first time you’re ever hearing the word. Whichever category you fall under, if you’ve yet to implement it to your life, you’re—how the kids say—sleep. Because not only does ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-guy, as explained by singer and speaker Tim Tamashiro) have the power to bring meaning to your life, but it can also add years to it as well.
No, ikigai is not some sort of magic potion or elixir of youth (though we suppose you could look at it that way in the figurative sense). Instead, it’s a lifestyle change of sorts. Are you ready to live your best life? Then it’s time to look inward.
In a recent article published by CNN, writer David D. Allan dives into Japanese theory, which originated on the island of Okinawa and loosely translates to “purpose in life.” He then goes on to highlight books that were published on the subject in recent years, while shedding some light on how you can incorporate ikigai into your own routine.
“Ikigai has been drawn in books and articles as the center of a Venn diagram in which your answers to these questions all overlap,” Allan explains. “What do you love? What are you good at? What can you be paid for? What does the world need? When you find the answer that fits all four questions, that’s your ikigai.”
There’s a reason why Okinawa is called the Village of Longevity. Tryna live to see 100? Read on to find out how.
What’s Your Motivation?
That is, what gets you out of bed each day? Is it the morning sunrise? The sound of birds chirping? The prospect of accomplishing something great? Whatever it is, if you can identify it, then you’re already on your way to a more rewarding lifestyle.
What Do You Love To Do?
And we’re not necessarily talking about your 9-5. If you’re blessed to do what you love for a living, then congrats! You’ve been aware of your ikigai all this time. But not everyone is that lucky. Perhaps you’re working at law firm, but you’d really rather be at home recording a self-help podcast. Or maybe you’ve always loved ceramics. Or perhaps furniture design is your steez. Whatever it is, if you can hone in on it and figure out a way to make it a more prominent part of your life, you’re already on the right track.
“Ikigai is largely just the activity that will blissfully keep you busy until the end of your days,” Allan explains. “And by pursuing it, you’ll probably have more of those days.”
This is where side hustles come into play. It’s important to note, as Japanese neuroscientist and author Ken Mogi mentions in Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day, many people stay in their day-to-day profession (aka the job that pays the bills) while engaging with their ikigai on the side. So don’t feel like finding your ikigai is impossible if you can’t quit your day job. If you start small (one of the five pillars Mogi touches upon), one day your ikigai could grow into something larger—and perhaps even profitable.
“Most crucially, you cannot and should not blame the environment for a lack of ikigai,” Mogi writes. “After all, it is up to you to find your own ikigai, in your own way.”
Now Do It Everyday
As Allan notes, this part is a little tricky. That’s because life transpires in a way that sometimes pulls us away from our true selves, “making it very easy for us to lead lives lacking in meaning,” as Héctor García and Francesc Miralles write in Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. “Powerful forces and incentives (money, power, attention, success) distract us on a daily basis; don’t let them take over your life.”
The key is being consistent in listening to your inner voice. If your intuition is pulling you toward a particular motivation or activity, listen to it. And surround yourself with a positive group of folks while you’re at it.
No more excuses. It’s time to follow your got damn heart.