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What is ikigai and how can it change your life?

What is ikigai?

Although you may never ask yourself that question specifically, you may have seen articles here and there or have seen social media posts with some infographics encouraging people to find out their true mission, vision, profession, and vocation through what they love, what the world needs, what you can get monetary gains from and what you are really good at.

To put things in context, in recent years, the concept of ikigai has gained popularity in Western cultures, often associated with the idea of aligning one's passion with their career. However, the true essence of ikigai, deeply rooted in Japanese culture, extends beyond a professional framework. Understanding the cultural nuances reveals a profound difference between the Western interpretation and the traditional Japanese understanding of ikigai.

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. It encapsulates a holistic philosophy that intertwines the threads of purpose, joy, and fulfillment into the very essence of life. Delving deeper into ikigai in Japanese culture reveals its multifaceted nature, where the pursuit of meaning is intricately woven into the very fabric of daily existence extending far beyond a simple formula for aligning passion with career. extends far beyond a simple formula for aligning passion with career.

The Western Perspective: Aligning Passion with Career

In Western contexts, Ikigai has often been distilled into a Venn diagram, representing the convergence of what one loves, what they are good at, what the world needs, and what they can be paid for. This interpretation emphasizes the intersection of passion, vocation, mission, and profession. While aligning passion with career is undoubtedly valuable, the Western adaptation tends to prioritize the professional aspect, potentially overlooking the broader aspects of life that contribute to one's sense of fulfillment and purpose.

The Joy of Being Alive

In Japan, Ikigai translates to "a reason for being" or "a reason to wake up in the morning." It encompasses the joy of living a fulfilling life, embracing the present moment, and finding purpose in daily activities. Unlike the Western focus on career and passion, Ikigai in Japan is about holistic well-being, encompassing family, relationships, community, and personal pursuits. It's a philosophy that encourages individuals to explore the simplicity of life, find joy in small pleasures, and cultivate meaningful connections.

It sounds great, where do I start?

So, if today we can leave you with some takeaways, this is what I will hone in to:

Finding Joy in the Ordinary

At the core of Ikigai is the celebration finding joy in the small, everyday moments - the sunrise, a warm cup of tea, or the laughter of loved ones, the morning coffee or a simple call with your mom and dad if you still have them in your life.


Unlike Western ideals that often chase grandiose ambitions, Ikigai in Japan recognizes the beauty and richness present in the simplicity of daily life.


Connect more often to Nature

Nature holds a significant place in Japanese culture, and Ikigai reflects this connection. It encourages individuals to harmonize with nature, appreciating its rhythms and finding inspiration in its cyclical patterns.


Whether it's a walk in the garden, tending to plants, or simply immersing oneself in the natural surroundings, Ikigai encourages a symbiotic relationship with the environment.


Embracing Lifelong Learning

Ikigai embraces the concept of lifelong learning as a means of continual self-discovery. It encourages individuals to remain curious, explore new interests, and engage in activities that contribute to personal growth.


Learning, in this context, becomes a dynamic journey that never ends rather than a means to an end, fostering a sense of purpose throughout one's life.


Meaningful Relationships

Central to Ikigai is the importance of meaningful relationships. Family, friends, and community connections are integral components of a fulfilling life. The support and bonds formed with others contribute significantly to an individual's sense of purpose and joy.

Ikigai recognizes the interconnectedness of lives and the shared experiences that bring depth to existence.

Contribution to the Collective

Ikigai emphasizes the idea of contributing to the collective well-being. It encourages individuals to find ways to contribute to their communities and society at large.


This could manifest through meaningful work, volunteering, or acts of kindness. The sense of purpose derived from positively impacting the collective reflects a communal ethos deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.


Acceptance of Impermanence

Japanese philosophy often embraces the impermanence of life, known as "Mono no Aware." Similarly, Ikigai acknowledges the transient nature of existence.


This acceptance invites individuals to savor each moment, understanding that life's ebbs and flows contribute to the richness of human experience.


Alignment with Personal Values

Ikigai encourages individuals to align their pursuits with their core values. It prompts reflection on what truly matters to each person, guiding them towards endeavors that resonate with their authentic selves. This alignment fosters a sense of integrity and authenticity in the pursuit of one's purpose.

Closing the gaps and final reflections


In essence, Ikigai in Japanese culture is a dynamic, evolving philosophy that transcends a mere career-focused approach to purpose. It encompasses a way of life that values the mundane, cherishes connections, and recognizes the importance of contributing to something greater than oneself.

Understanding true ikigai goes far beyond what has been promoted lately and largely in social media, ikigai requires a deep appreciation for the cultural nuances that shape this profound concept, providing a roadmap for a purposeful and meaningful existence that transcends career choices.


We hope you have found some good insights in this article, and that encourages you to find joy in the every day life, connect with nature, focus on meaningful relationships, continuous learning and making a contribution to the community, because at the end of the day, we are here in this life for a limited time and we need to learn to appreciate every minute of it.

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