Think of what it takes to live a long life. What comes to mind? Is it eating healthy? Exercising everyday? Taking your vitamins?
While wellness certainly makes a difference, experts believe that the key to a long, happy, and healthy life can be found in a certain Japanese concept: ikigai.
Ikigai roughly translates to “reason for being.” In Japan, your ikigai is what makes you want to get out of the bed in the morning. It’s your raison d’etre, that special thing you live for. According to Hector Garcia, author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long and Happy Life, your ikigai is what gives you flow, a meditative state of focused yet calm concentration.
Good For Our Health?
Ikigai originates from the Island of Okinawa, which is famous for its centenarians and low mortality rate.
Dan Buettner, who’s written extensively about centenarians, has found that populations that live the longest share several important commonalities: they eat a plant-based diet, they walk often, they regularly pray or mediate, and they also have tight-knit communities.
But importantly, they also tend to have a strong sense of life purpose. In fact, there is no word for retirement in Okinawa, as many seniors continue to do that very thing they love long past their prime, whether it’s take care of family or making tea for other villagers.
Even if living to 100 feels like a lofty goal, having a sense of purpose is still a good idea physiologically. Having meaning in your life has been found to improve health overall: not only does it reduces stress, it also encourages individuals to embrace healthier lifestyles.
How To Find Your Ikigai
Your ikigai is something you can only find for yourself, which makes it a little challenging in some ways. Some people just know what they’re meant to do with their life. And that’s great!
But for others, finding a ikigai requires a little bit of self-reflection and soul-searching. Ask yourself, what do you like? What makes you excited?
When considering these questions, Buettner says it’s important to take into mind not just what you like, but how you can give back while doing it. This infuses ikigai with a sense of social responsibility: it’s a way to expand joy beyond yourself.
To find his own ikigai and to help readers understand theirs, the entrepreneur, Marc Winn, came up with a helpful Venn diagram. Understanding that passion has the possibility to intersect with practicality, his diagram asks people to consider four important factors.
- What you love
- What you are good at
- What the world needs
- What you can be paid for
Where these four aspects meet is your ikigai.
Try it out for yourself! Consider what matters to you and what you love. Then, create a list for yourself using Winn’s questions. It may feel overwhelming at first: after all, the road to a long and fulfilled life is not an easy trail to blaze. But then again, every trail must start with a few simple steps.