'Ikigai': The Japanese Morning Routine Promising To Find Your Life Purpose

·4-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From yoga retreats in the Himalayan mountains, and weekly mindfulness classes to restore balance, to downloading mediation apps such as Headspace, many of us spend our lives (and paycheques) on trying to achieve happiness and fulfilment.

However, despite trying the Danish idea of finding contentment in cosiness with the pursuit of 'hygge', and moderate living with he Swedish idea of 'lagom', so many of us are still struggling.

Until now, perhaps.

Enter 'ikigai', a lifestyle concept from Japan. In Japanese culture, it's widely believed that everyone has an 'ikigai' – a reason to jump out of bed each morning.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Instead of suggesting we slow down to find life's meaning, ikigai involves sticking your finger out, actively flagging down a raison d'être.

What it means

'Ikigai' is a Japanese word that roughly translates as 'reason for being'. Basically, it's all about finding purpose in life; working out what makes you happy and keeps you motivated.

Hector Garcia, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, explains the word uses the characters 'iki', or 'life', and 'kai', meaning the result of a certain action.

In essence, it's all about finding the answer to the big question: 'What should I do with my life?'

In Japanese culture, 'Ikigai' can be broken down into four main pillars of fulfilment (more on this later):

  • What you love (Passion and Mission)

  • What you are good at (Passion and Profession)

  • What you can be paid for (Profession and Vocation)

  • What the world needs (Mission and Vocation)

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Ken dos Remedios of the Hyper Japan cultural festival told the Independent: 'Although it is not impossible to have 'ikigai' without social connections, it is easier to feel 'ikigai' by creating social connections, perhaps because of the ingrained social connections Japanese society promotes and Japanese individuals are conditioned to seek.'

The concept has its origins in the Japanese island of Okinawa, which is said to be home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. Therefore, it is thought that ikigai may not only hold the key to happiness, but also longevity.

How does it work?

Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, explains that finding your purpose in life using this lifestyle trend is about focussing on a few key things: starting small, accepting yourself, connecting with the world around you (through other people and the environment), seeking out small joys, and being in the here and now.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

He suggests focussing on these ideas in the first couple of hours after you wake, in order to start your day on the right foot.

In order to find your Ikigai, according to the four main pillars laid out above, people should ask themselves the following four questions:

  1. What do I love?

  2. What am I good at?

  3. What can I be paid for now — or something that could transform into my future hustle?

  4. What does the world need?

In Garcia's book, he and co-author Francesc Miralles outline a further ten rules to help unlock your 'ikigai'.

  1. Stay active and don't retire

  2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life

  3. Only eat until you are 80 per cent full

  4. Surround yourself with good friends

  5. Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise

  6. Smile and acknowledge people around you

  7. Reconnect with nature

  8. Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive

  9. Live in the moment

  10. Follow your ikigai

How to put it into practice

You can actively work on finding 'Ikigai' by setting yourself a morning meditation ritual.

For example:

  1. Start small: take 10 minutes to read a book today.

  2. Accept yourself: tell yourself three affirmations to compliment yourself.

  3. Connect with the world around you: put your phone in your handbag and enjoy the sights and sounds of the world.

  4. Seek out small joys: find three things to make you smile in your day.

  5. Be in the here and now: take time to enjoy your lunch/a cup of coffee without distracting yourself with other activities.

'It is crucial to realise that moods can be changed through small joys,' explains Mogi.

'The fact is once the context is changed, your brain will adapt to that new context and moods can change in a short time.'

Happy searching!

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