Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.”
When combined, these terms mean that which gives your life worth, meaning, or purpose.
Ikigai is similar to the French term “raison d’etre” or “reason for being.”
The concept of ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. This medical tradition holds that physical well-being is affected by one’s mental–emotional health and sense of purpose in life.
Ikigai also resonates with Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy’s emphasis on pursuing activities that produce enjoyment and a sense of mastery, specifically as a way to alleviate the depressive disorder.
Ikigai also appears related to the concept of flow, as described in the work of Hungarian–American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For Csikszentmihalyi, flow occurs when you are in your “zone,” as they say of high-performing athletes.
Flow is a string of “best moments” or moments when we are at our best. These best moments “usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limit, in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
Flow can be said to occur when you are consistently doing something you love and that you are good at, with the possible added benefit of bringing value to others’ lives. In such a case, flow might be seen as in tune with your ikigai, or activities that give your life meaning and purpose.
It is important to note that ikigai does not typically refer only to one’s personal purpose and fulfillment in life, without regard to others or society at large.
Although it has had some historical shifts in meaning, ikigai has usually been cited as both a personal pursuit and one of benefit to others. In the end, ikigai brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to your life, while also contributing to the good of others.
Further, it is said that everyone has an ikigai – their particular intersection of passion, talent, and potential to benefit others. It is only a matter of finding it. The journey to ikigai might require time, deep self-reflection, and effort, but it is one we can all make.
The entire concept of ikigai is based on the five pillars of Japanese Philosophy. Let us learn the five pillars of ikigai:
5 pillars of ikigai.
PILLAR #1: STARTING SMALL.
According to Ikigai, It doesn’t matter what you do. Mopping the floor, organizing papers, or talking to a client. Treat the work you do as if you were the most efficient person on this planet. Do it diligently & carefully. Be attentive and focus on attaining the best results you can at the moment.
To start small can mean thinking about the present moment, one step at a time. To partake in activities and put your whole effort into them. You’ll find that success will come in due time by doing this.
The key to starting small is to focus on what you can do now instead of waiting for the “big” change that will magically make your situation better. This can be applied to everything we do.
PILLAR #2: RELEASING YOURSELF.
Releasing yourself can mean freeing yourself from fears, guilt, external expectations, ego, and responsibilities, pretty much anything that is no longer serving you.
It means trusting your intuition to guide you in the right direction.
No matter how much work you do, how well you perform, or how long you meditate, you’ll receive no brownie points, no praise. You are not recognized, celebrated, or validated for your performance.
Can you imagine a world like this? Can you imagine social media like this? No likes, no comments on your Insta post. You would only post things that matter to you. Writing those words, clicking that picture, and sharing that message can be genuinely fulfilling if you do it without any external validation.
PILLAR #3: HARMONY AND SUSTAINABILITY.
Harmony and sustainability are crucial when it comes to leading a happy life.
It’s the ability to find balance in every aspect of your life – social, mental, emotional, and even physical. Simply put, finding harmony means finding the cohesion that brings healthy existence between self and others (and the environment).
It means that things are working together, and there is balance.
A mindset with the drive to win can lead to great innovations. The same mindset can also lead to excessive stress and instability, both for individuals and society. After being in the lockdown we all have realized it. The rule ‘Survival of the fittest’ might be applicable to the animal kingdom. However, for us, sustainability is an art of life. A man is like a forest, he’s an individual yet connected and dependent on others for growth.
PILLAR #4: THE JOY OF LITTLE THINGS.
Deep joy comes from inside, and it shouldn’t be dependent on something outside of ourselves. To find joy, we need to listen to our inner voice and find deep-seated reasons for feeling happy.
The joy in little things is the rediscovery and appreciation for all we have – our loved ones, work, health, shelter, etc. It’s about being grateful for what you currently have instead of focusing on what will make your life more complete in the future. And there are so many little things to enjoy in life!
Satisfaction comes when you create something from start to finish/, where people take pleasure and satisfaction in both/ the process and the result.
Whatever your hobby might be: eating vegetables you grow in your home garden, greeting customers with a smile, writing short stories. You are not bound by any standards. You are free to do whatever you want, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others. You must keep at it, every single day. Do at least one thing that you love to do.
PILLAR #5: BEING IN THE HERE AND NOW.
When you’re in the here and now, you are fully present in your life. You have one hundred percent of your attention focused on what is happening right at this moment.
Being in the here and now means to live purposefully. And with purpose – comes happiness.
Work becomes an end in itself, rather than something to be endured /as a means of achieving something else. Finding happiness in one’s efforts and enjoying the journey is the most important challenge in life. Write an article even if no one may read it, and draw a picture when nobody is watching. Workout when nobody is there to see your progress.