This is Shannon. She's my friend. She’s known her purpose in life since she was in kindergarten—to draw and create. So much so that she has the words 生き甲斐 inked on her right arm. That’s Japanese for “a reason for being”, by the way.
But not all of us are like Shannon.
Most of us are still trying to figure it out, even after 20, 30, 40 years. Being asked “what’s your purpose in life?” is very much like having to ace a 10-page test on astrophysics in 2 seconds. It often sounds like an impossible question to answer.
Now, before you grab that paper bag and start hyperventilating, let me tell you this: it’s not as hard as you think. Today, I’m going to teach you about a concept that will make it easier for you to wrap your mind around your purpose in life.
Coincidentally, it’s related to Shannon’s tattoo.
What is ikigai?
Ikigai is a concept that originated from Okinawa—where there are more than 400 centenarians—and is often thought of as “a reason to wake up”.
For the Okinawans, it’s simply a humble way of life. Everybody has a reason to wake up in the morning there, and it could be as simple as “tending to my vegetable garden”.
At one point, experts were studying Okinawa thoroughly because the prefecture retained the longest life expectancy in Japan for 30 years in a row. Aside from the Okinawan diet and active social life, having an ikigai is discovered to be one of the biggest secrets behind their longevity.
The secret behind a good life
Whenever we think of a good life, we would usually start imagining the perfect retirement plan—a goal to achieve. But have you ever thought of what happens after?
It is said that there’s no word in the Japanese language to describe “retirement”. Even into their old age, Japanese people continue to rise early, get work done, meet friends, and have a great time altogether.
This momentum of life is precisely what gives people a reason to continue living, and it’s what ikigai is all about—the secret to having a good life is to continually want to live it.
If you can always find a reason to wake up to live life, you’d want to live till you’re a hundred. You’ll want to live life to its fullest because you’re so excited to wake up everyday!
Finding your reason for being
As I’ve said before, finding your ikigai is not a result-oriented, one-time test that will define the rest of your life. It’s a continual process of self-discovery.
All you need to do is answer four simple questions truthfully. And if you find it difficult to answer them, take a walk, and do it again later.
You’re allowed to ask questions, repeat the exercise as many times as you like, and even change your purpose when it no longer makes sense to you.
Grab a notebook, make yourself a cup of tea, and come along as we teach you how to find your ikigai with this video.
I hope you had a good time getting to know yourself through this exercise. Share your progress with us, we’d love to continue the conversation with you.