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Ikigai - the Reason for Being

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The realities of life 

Often times, life presents you with different challenges – challenges that nearly choke you out of existence.  At those crucial moments, the purpose of life becomes bleak and its essence, frustrating.  Then, and right there at that crossroad, it dawns on you that the journey of life is full of ups and downs, push and pulls – an indication that life is not at all, a bed of roses. 

Of course, in life, many forces militate against one’s quest for fulfillment.  For some, it is the daily hustle and bustle for survival while for some others; it is the search for a better life, a raised paycheck or an upgraded standard of living. 

Ikigai: bouncing back

In reacting to life’s pressures, the Japanese people invented a concept known as ‘Ikigai’ simply translated in English as ‘the reason for being’.  The concept is a marriage of two words; ‘Iki’, which refers to life and ‘Kai’, which refers to the realization of what one expects or hopes for.  It refers to cultivating a mindset that helps you to bounce back when life seems to be treating you badly.  Ikigai are forces that keep you on your toes and reinforces your inner strength to respond positively to life’s hassles daily.  It makes you see light at the end of every tunnel of life. 

According to Yukari Mitsuhashi, Ikigai embodies the idea of happiness in living; the reason why you always want to jump out of bed every morning.  In addition, in their book, the Japanese secret to a long and happy life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, explained the term further.  They averred that “Ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing”. 

A worthy lifestyle beyond money

Ikigai originated specifically as a culture of the Okinawa people.  No wonder descents from this part of Japan are renowned for the exclusive longevity they enjoy in life.  The island of Okinawa is reputed as residence to the largest number of centenarians in the world.  However, while a unique diet contributes largely to this, Ikigai also plays a significant role.  This then, is suggestive that the culture of having a positive approach to life can make you livelong. 

So much so, Ikigai is an all-encompassing concept that reflects the values of doing something and the value of working.  It is the convergence of the four crucial elements, which include; 

  • What you love (your passion); that is things that inspires you and brings out the best in you

  • What the world needs (your mission); these are skills you possess that are useful in affecting the world and making a difference. 

  • What cause you believe in; that is standing up for what is right regardless of what is at stake 

  • What you can be paid for (your profession); these are values and services you can offer which people can pay you for. 

Nevertheless, financial gains as being a source of Ikigai is less important when compared to the mental and spiritual benefits obtainable from it.  An argument against financial and material gains as source of one’s true Ikigai was provided by Garcia and Miralles who explained that “just as humans have lust after objects and money since the dawn of time, other humans have felt dissatisfaction at the relentless pursuit of money and fame and have instead focused on something bigger than their material wealth.”  That something bigger is what is regarded as the reason for being.  This is not to say that money and fame does not determine the Ikigai of some.  In fact, to this category of people, nothing else fuels their passion and drive other than money and fame. 

Find it! 

Of course, from cradle to the present level you find yourself, you would have realized that each day is loaded with its pressure.  The heat of which is the trial of your resilience.  In order not to get frustrated or disoriented; in order to keep forging ahead towards a brighter future, you must find your Ikigai.  Interestingly, discovering your Ikigai has many benefits; some of which include but not limited to self-fulfillment, happiness and long life.

If finding what keeps you burning is that beneficial, how then do you uncover your Ikigai?

Discovering your Ikigai is a fundamental step in fulfilling your purpose.  It is a somewhat complex but realizable process.  The authors of the book “Ikigai; the Japanese secret to a long and happy life” simplified the process of finding one’s Ikigai.  It includes the following; 

  • Staying active and not retiring

  • Adapting to a slow and steady approach to winning in life

  • Eating until you are eighty percent full

  • Keep good company

  • Keep fit by exercising gently and daily

  • Develop a healthy lifestyle by smiling always

  • Appreciate and bask in nature’s euphoria

  • Be appreciative, show appreciation towards everything and anything that makes you come alive

  • Live in the moment 

  • Follow your heart

The quest to finding fulfillment is life is made easy once you discover you are Ikigai.  Also, ask yourself the following questions as they help in rediscovering your Ikigai at every point when you seem to be losing hope. 

  • What do I love and enjoy doing?

  • What is my passion?

  • How can I affect my world and make it a better place?

  • What values or services can I offer conveniently in exchange for money?

Find your Ikigai today and you will be one-step ahead towards living a purpose driven life. 

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