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The Oxford English Dictionary defines ikigai as "a motivating force; something or someone that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living". More generally it may refer to something that brings pleasure or fulfilment.[1]


Ikigai can describe having a sense of purpose in life,[2][3] as well as being motivated.[4] According to a study by Michiko Kumano, feeling ikigai as described in Japanese usually means the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that follows when people pursue their passions.[5] Activities that generate the feeling of ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are perceived as being spontaneous and undertaken willingly, and thus are personal and depend on a person's inner self.[6]

National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner suggested ikigai may be one of the reasons for the longevity of the people of Okinawa.[8] According to Buettner, Okinawans have less desire to retire, as people continue to do their favourite job as long as they remain healthy. Moai, a close-knit friend group, is also considered an important reason for the people of Okinawa to live long.[9]

Although the concept of ikigai has long existed in Japanese culture, it was first popularised by Japanese psychiatrist and academic Mieko Kamiya in her 1966 book "On the Meaning of Life" (生きがいについて, ikigai ni tsuite).[10] The book has not yet been translated into English.

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, ikigai was thought to be experienced towards either the betterment of society ("subordinating one's own desires to others") or improvement of oneself ("following one's own path").[11]

According to anthropologist Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, for an older generation in Japan, their ikigai was to "fit this standard mold of company and family", whereas the younger generation reported their ikigai to be about "dreams of what they might become in the future".[12]

Multiple studies[vague] showed that people who do not feel ikigai are more likely to experience cardiovascular diseases. However, there was no evidence of any correlation with development of malignant tumors.[13][14]

Spend some time visualizing your ideal day from start to finish. Believe it or not, this is going to help you determine your ikigai and your true meaning. What are you wearing? Who are you talking to? What are you doing? Pay attention to how you feel. What makes you feel good at work?

Objective: To investigate the association between the sense of "life worth living (ikigai)" and the cause-specific mortality risk. The psychological factors play important roles in morbidity and mortality risks. However, the association between the negative psychological factors and the risk of mortality is inconclusive.

Methods: The Ohsaki Study, a prospective cohort study, was initiated on 43,391 Japanese adults. To assess if the subjects found a sense of ikigai, they were asked the question, "Do you have ikigai in your life?" We used Cox regression analysis to calculate the hazard ratio of the all-cause and cause-specific mortality according to the sense of ikigai categories.

Results: Over 7 years' follow-up, 3048 of the subjects died. The risk of all-cause mortality was significantly higher among the subjects who did not find a sense of ikigai as compared with that in the subjects who found a sense of ikigai; the multivariate adjusted hazard ratio (95% confidence interval) was 1.5 (1.3-1.7). As for the cause-specific mortality, subjects who did not find a sense of ikigai were significantly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (1.6; 1.3-2.0) and external cause mortality (1.9; 1.1-3.3), but not of the cancer mortality (1.3; 1.0-1.6).

Conclusions: In this prospective cohort study, subjects who did not find a sense of ikigai were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. The increase in mortality risk was attributable to cardiovascular disease and external causes, but not cancer.

Gai is the key to finding your purpose, or value in life. The best way to really encapsulate the overarching ideology of ikigai is by looking at the ikigai Venn diagram which displays the overlapping four main qualities: what you are good at, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and of course, what you love.

It would be easy, then, to dismiss the value of ikigai as a fad, or to take it at face value and neglect its nuanced cultural meanings. Both would be a mistake in my view, as despite its limitations, the concept of ikigai still has much to offer.

Japanese ideas of ikigai are often gender based. Men tend to say their work or employer gives them a sense of self-worth. Women often say their sense of meaning comes from family or motherhood. Such male-female framing is not only restrictive, it also poses a problem for those who are unable to frame their life in such terms. Japanese self-help manuals are most often targeted at retired or unemployed men, or single women.

Yet the pursuit of other goals seen as worthwhile can lead to a sense of well-being. In this sense, ikigai, as a focus on a particular sphere of life or activity that makes life worth living, is important. It gives a sense of purpose to life, but one that need not be grand or monumental.

On focus in this study was the Japanese notion of ikigai, translated by the researchers as believing that one's life is worth living. In Japan, ikigai is apparently a common term for what English speakers might term subjective well-being, and it includes purpose and meaning, with connotations of joy about being alive. So, one's hobby might provide ikigai, or one's family, or one's work. To my thoroughly monolingual (i.e., American) ear, ikigai sounds like it is created by what positive psychologists call a healthy passion (Vallerand, 2008).

The notion of ikigai is a good reminder to positive psychologists in the United States that our science should not simply be an export business. There are lessons to be learned in all cultures about what makes life worth living, and no language has a monopoly on the vocabulary for describing the good life.

In any event, the study began in late 1994 with a survey of tens of thousands of Japanese adults between the ages of 40 and 79. Among many questions posed to respondents was one about ikigai: "Do you have ikigai in your life?" Possible answers were yes, uncertain, and no. The vast majority of respondents were followed for the next seven years. About 7% died during this time, and the cause of death for these individuals was determined by reviewing and coding death certificates.

Almost 60% of the research participants reported a sense of ikigai in 1994, and those who did were more likely to be married, educated, and employed. They reported lower levels of stress and better self-rated health.

Even when likely "confounds" were taken into account, ikigai predicted who was still alive after seven years. Said another way, 95% of respondents who reported a sense of meaning in their lives were alive seven years after the initial survey versus about 83% of those who reported no sense of meaning in their lives. The lack of ikigai was in particular associated with death due to cardiovascular disease (usually stroke), but not death due to cancer. This latter finding is interesting because cancer has long been regarded, at least in the Western world, as a disease of despair (cf. Hippocrates).

The exact mechanisms--biological, psychological, or social--linking ikigai to mortality are at present unknown, but these results are worth taking seriously. Ikigai does not guarantee longevity, and its absence does not preclude it. Nonetheless, the findings reported by Sone and colleagues are not just statistically significant; they are also substantively significant.

As of this writing, Billy Joel is almost sixty years old, and I hope he is well. He once proclaimed that his crowd wasn't too pretty and that it wasn't too proud. But I hope he and his crowd have ample ikigai, because only those without it die young (p

How do I find my ikigai? You fall into a rut of doing things the way they are for the fear of not wanting to get out of your comfort zone and then suddenly one day you realize you are bored and want to find your ikigai? At this stage what do you do?

Took me 50 years to find my ikigai. Just been offered f/t job today teaching first aid. As a Tibetan Buddhust I have been searching all my life for a way to make me happy and most imortantly benefit others. I found this and in peoples greatest time of need. I now have happiness or ikigai!

My ikigai is to build websites/apps that will help to drive this world to be more efficient and help others to solve their problem and I get paid quite well for that ? love what you do and money will comes sooner or later.

In the West, ikigai is most commonly represented as the intersection of four circles, each referring to one of the following components: What you are good at, what you love, what the world needs, and what you can get paid/rewarded for.

I know plenty of successful executives who tick all four boxes and yet their real ikigai has nothing to do with business. Some love to assemble soapbox race cars in the garden shed with friends on the weekend. Others come fully alive when they do charitable work whilst on annual leave.

And, as it turned out, the world needed the work that I do: empowering students and parents with knowledge, skills, and healthy mindsets. Lo and behold, I found myself right in the middle of the diagram; I had an ikigai.

In my 20s, I could have never envisioned the fulfilling career I now enjoy. It would have been impossible to end up where I am today by just sitting around and thinking about what my purpose was, waiting to discover it through introspection. With no clear goal in mind, I aimed for the intersections and worked my way toward the center. I worked my way to an ikigai.

In my early 30s, I studied the science of behavioral change because, quite frankly, I needed to. I was a recovering addict with many bad habits. By adopting healthier mindsets and learning effective strategies, I steadily swapped out my bad habits for good ones and transformed my life. In other words, I became good at behavioral change. Then I started teaching these strategies in my weekly class, and I started teaching them to the students I was working with. People ate it up, and I loved the work. So I launched my habit coaching business and started getting paid to help adults change their lives. Voilà! Another ikigai! 041b061a72


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