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Ikigai: Japanese Secret to Happiness and Purpose in Life

Reading Length: 4 minutes

What drives you when you wake up in the morning? In Japan, they refer to this as Ikigai which just may be the secret to happiness, fulfillment and longevity in life.

What is Ikigai?

In translation, “Iki” means “life.” While, “kai” means “reason” or “worthiness.” The most common definition of Ikigai is the reason for waking up in the morning. From Kyle Kowalski, founder of Sloww, here are many other definitions:

  • “Reason for being.”
  • “Happiness of being busy”
  • “The process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom.”
  • “The realization of what one expects and hopes for.”
  • “Something to live for, the joy and goal of living.”

Ikigai can be divided into four components:

  • 1. What you love (your passion)
  • 2. What the world needs (your mission)
  • 3. What you are good at (your vocation)
  • 4. What you can get paid for (your profession)

Why is Ikigai Important?

In September 2017, a popular Japanese TV program named Takeshi no katei no igaku partnered with a group of scientists to study a town in Kyoto with a population that has three times more residents over the age of 100 compared to the rest of the country. They discovered a pattern in the men and women residents which was that they all had a hobby that they practiced everyday which they loved. They also found high figures of DHEA, a hormone linked to “longevity hormone.” From Lucy Dayman, author at Savvy Tokyo:

“The program suggested that having this one thing that keeps you interested, focused, and gives you a sense of satisfaction in life may boost your youth DHEA hormone, thus leading to a longer and happier life.

-Lucy dayman, author at savvy tokyo

Misconceptions About Ikigai From the West

When it comes to Ikigai, what most people think of is the popular Venn diagram which can lead to narrow-minded misconceptions. According to Kyle Kowalski, founder of Sloww,

  • Ikigai isn’t necessarily related to work or money. Ikigai can be a family, a dream or simply the spiritual feeling that life is worth living.
    • “In a survey of 2,000 Japanese men and women conducted by Central Research Services in 2010, just 31% of recipients considered work as their ikigai.”
  • Ikigai doesn’t have to be viewed as an overwhelming, all-or-nothing life purpose. The life purpose itself can sound too grand. When in reality, Ikigai could simply mean finding fulfillment in the little things in everyday life.

“Japanese people believe that the sum of small joys in everyday life results in more fulfilling life as a whole.”

-Mieko kamiya, psychiatrist and author of ikigai-ni-tsuite
  • You can have more than one Ikigai in your life.
    • “They have an important purpose in life, or several. They have an Ikigai, but they don’t take it too seriously. They are relaxed and enjoy all that they do.”

How to Find Your Ikigai

According to Thomas Oppong, founder of All Top StartUps, ask yourself the four following 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?

From Tim Tamashiro, author of “How to Ikigai,” after figuring out your passions and gifts, you can follow the equation:

  • Ikigai = time affluence + your gifts + your rewards

He also suggests to following Ikigai by:

  • Starting Ikigai as a side hustle. Over 50% of Millennials already do this. You can eventually transfer the part time Ikigai to full time Ikigai.
  • Starting Ikigai as a side-helpful. See it as a verb and see which verb resonates most with you.
    • To serve
    • To create
    • To delight
    • To nourish
    • To provide
    • To provide
    • To teach
    • To heal
    • To connect
    • To build

From Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life , here are 10 rules to get started with Ikigai:

  • 1. Stay active and don’t retire.
  • 2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
  • 3. Don’t fill your stomach. 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.

Personal Experience

Once this pandemic hit, just like most people, I was laid off from my job which encouraged me to reevaluate my goals and aspirations in life. I was already pursuing physical therapy but I knew I could make use of my passions during quarantine. So I sketched out what my current Ikigai diagram looks like:

I personally don’t believe that I have found my Ikigai yet but I’m consistently making progress towards that. This is because I’m still lacking in skill. The good news is that I still have plenty of time to continue getting better at these fields.


  • What is Ikigai? Ikigai is what drives you when you wake up in the morning. It is something to love for, the joy and goal of living.
  • Why is Ikigai Important? It is linked to a “longevity hormone” and linked to a longer and happier life based on a study from a town in Kyoto, Japan.
  • Misconceptions about Ikigai From the West. Ikigai isn’t necessarily related to work or money. It doesn’t have to be viewed as an overwhelming, all-or-nothing life purpose. You can have more than one Ikigai in your life.
  • How to Find Ikigai. Ask yourself: What do I love? What am I good at? What can I be paid for now? What does the world need? Start Ikigai as a side hustle or side-helpful first. Refer back to the 10 rules.

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Check out this video I made on “Ikigai.” Please like and subsccribe!

Blog References:

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life Might Just Help You Live a More Fulfilling Life by Thomas Oppong
Ikigai: The Japanese Concept Of Finding Purpose In Life by Lucy Dayman
The True Meaning of Ikigai: Definitions, Diagrams & Myths about the Japanese Life Purpose by Kyle Kowalsk
How to Ikigai | Tim Tamashiro | TEDxYYC


Published by Jean Soo

My name is Jean Soo. I’m a physical therapy student and blogger. I’ve spent quarantine studying and reading over hundreds of self improvement content. I’ve personally faced my own life transformation through some of these books and articles which I will share with you. You can expect to receive valuable content about building better habits, enhancing productivity and promoting more happiness in life. Stay tuned!

6 thoughts on “Ikigai: Japanese Secret to Happiness and Purpose in Life

  1. I feel encouraged to practice “Ikigai ” I do find that I do practice certain of the things but that I am also not consistent and need to do more. Reading your post made me wonder as to why I am not consistent practicing the things that can but only bring satisfaction in my life and plus it may boost my youth hormone 🙂 Thank you for a great post, I am so motivated to implement and practice things that can but only lead to a purposeful life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy to read that this post was helpful and that you’re taking those steps for a more purposeful life! Feel free to reach out and update anytime on your activities! I still have a lot to learn too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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