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Ikigai: the Japanese secret to a long, happy life

By Abeer Jabaji , Family Flavours - Oct 04,2020 - Last updated at Oct 04,2020

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Abeer Jabaji

Personal Development Coach and Classical Homeopath


What is your reason for waking up in the morning? What is the source of value in your life and what makes your life worth living? What is your Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that simply means “reason for being”. Translated roughly into English, it means the “thing that you live for”. Research has found that having a sense of purpose can extend and enrich your life. It can cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. The resulting stress reduction has even been shown to improve the quality of your sleep. Each person’s Ikigai is personal and is specific to their lives, values and beliefs.


Where it all began


Ikigai originated in Okinawa, Japan, a remote island to the south west of Japan, in the famously called Blue Zone. It has an unusually large population of centenarians (people who live to or past 100 years). The inhabitants of this island carry the secret to longevity and vitality and a long, happy and purposeful life.

In Okinawa, Ikigai is a revered tradition; with their purpose-driven lives, people on the island have clear roles of responsibility and a feeling of being needed well into their 100s. In the Okinawan language, the word “retirement” does not exist.

Ikigai is not linked to one’s financial status or the success one acquires in life, but rather to one’s own purpose. Even if a person feels that the present is unfulfilling and miserable but still has a goal in mind, then she or he may feel Ikigai.

Discovering your own Ikigai can lead you to fulfilment, happiness, balance and living longer.


So what is Ikigai and how can you find yours?


Ikigai is the convergence of four areas in your life:

• What you love (your passion)

• What you are good at (your vocation)

• What the world needs (your mission)

• What you can get rewarded or paid for (your profession) 


To find your Ikigai, ask yourself: 

• What do I love?

• What am I good at?

• What does the world need?

• What can I be paid or rewarded for now or in the future? 


Reflect on each question and take your time while writing your answers. 


Ten rules* that can help you find your Ikigai


• Stay active and don’t retire

• Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life

• Only eat until you are 80 per cent full

• Surround yourself with good friends

• Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise

• Smile and acknowledge people around you

• Reconnect with nature

• Give thanks to anything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive

• Live in the moment

• Follow your Ikigai


The problem for millions of people is that they stop being curious about new experiences as they assume responsibilities and fall into the trap of routines. Their sense of wonder starts to escape them. They just carry on with their daily lives with no purpose, no passion and no sense. But you can change that and start looking for meaning and fulfilment in what you do daily. Follow your passion because it knows the way. 

What is the one simple thing you could do or be today that would be an expression of your Ikigai? Think about it and go for it! 


*From “Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles 


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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