Ikigai, a Japanese philosophy for a balanced lifestyle

Ikigai or 生き甲斐 (pronounced ee-kee-guy) is a Japanese philosophy from the Okinawa islands. Iki 生き means “alive” or “life” in Japanese, and Gai 甲斐 defines as “value” or “worth”. It is, in fact, very similar to the French “Raison d’Être”. Ikigai literally means “reasons for being”. In short, it is what is motivating you to wake up every morning.

Japan is one of the countries with the most centenarians in the world, with about 48 centenarians for every 100,000 individuals back in 2017. And coincidentally, the Ikigai concept comes from the prefecture with the most centenarians in Japan.

In Okinawa, Ikigai is a way of finding your very own bliss, while in western culture, we’ve interpreted it more as finding your dream, but these are very close concepts.

As the diagram above shows, your Ikigai is where the four points meet: what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and society’s needs.

Finding your Ikigai is no easy task and it requires you to sit down and think about yourself, think about what you enjoy the most, think about your skills, qualifications, the opportunities you have, and how you can match everything in order to find this healthy balance for a fruitful, stressless lifestyle.

In fact, there are many different ways to approach Ikigai but nonetheless, it remains a strong motivating purpose of life that brings fulfillment and happiness in one’s daily life.

A neuroscientist and author of Awakening your Ikigai, Ken Mogi, suggests we focus on the following five pillars each morning when we wake up for a positive start:

  1. Starting small
  2. Accepting yourself
  3. Connecting with the world around you
  4. Seeking out small joys
  5. Being in the here and now

Then, how can you find your Ikigai? There’s no magic trick, but we do advise you to ponder over the four questions in the diagram for at least 10 minutes a day while keeping in mind Mogi’s pillars and being 100% honest with yourself. Write down your thoughts in a journal.

Thanks to the Okinawan people for teaching us this beautiful concept that is Ikigai. Not only do Okinawan people live longer, but they also age well, mostly thanks to an incredibly healthy diet, a good balance with work and enjoyment, an ethical and non-toxic skincare routine, and daily physical activity.

You probably won’t find it overnight, so be patient and start at your own pace, maybe keep track of your thoughts in a journal. We definitely have a lot to learn from Okinawan culture.