What is ikigai? Let’s take a look at the written character first. “iki” (生き) translates as “life” and “gai” (甲斐) translates as worth or value. Therefore we could translate “ikigai” as “discovering the joy in life through purpose”. The origin of the word dates back to the Heian period (794 to 1185) and It can also be seen in the phrase “yarigai ga aru” ( 遣り甲斐がある) or “it’s worth doing”.
This old Japanese concept can be incredibly beneficial to us here in the west. After all, who doesn’t want more joy and completion in life? Ikigai is far more than a simple Venn diagram or meme. It is a qualitative practice, and a philosophy for living a happy, healthy life and is not necessarily related to economic status. It is something personal that reflects one’s inner character, and establishes a point of view that allows for ease and clarity. In short ikigai can be seen as the reason you get up in the morning. It can be as small as enjoying a cup of coffee and petting your dog, or as grand as winning the Nobel Prize.
Ikigai is appreciating the richness and complexity of life. It is realizing that our lives are made up of the small joys and small goals that we accomplish every day. It is being aware that in order to accomplish the big goals, we need to mind the small things. We could consider ikigai more of a concept and less a concrete statement.
The course of a person’s life can be broken into three phases; their past, their present, and their future.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start determining your ikigai.
In my childhood, what did I enjoy most?
What events from my youth do I remember most strongly? Do they still impact me today?
Looking back at my life, what memories stir the most emotions?
What brings me happiness in everyday life?
When am I the happiest?
What is the most fulfilling way that I spend my time?
What makes me smile, just thinking about it?
What moves me? When do I feel the strongest emotions?
What am I curious about?
What in my life do I wish to change?
What is something I do happily, even if no one asks?
What do I want to pursue, even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand?
If I had all the money in the world, what would I continue to do anyway?
What do I look forward to?
What changes do I wish to see in the future? What can I do about them?
What makes me want to live to see tomorrow?
The rest is up to you!