Lockdown Blues: Finding Your Ikigai to Transform Your Life

According to the Japanese dictionary, Ikigai is ‘the happiness and benefit of being alive.’

Published
Mind It
5 min read
What would it be like to jump joyfully out of the bed every morning and start working?
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Our life is dictated by a hunger to compete, earn and accumulate by sprinting. With no time to think, we act like zombies, are unhappy and frustrated. Life without a sense of purpose becomes drudgery. With the last few months of working from home while managing that same speed of work and handling home and family, has led to our stress levels shooting through the video.

What would it be like to jump joyfully out of the bed every morning and start working? Looks like a tall order, right? However, it is possible when we discover our purpose that happens to be our reason for being, providing us the motivation to live - our Ikigai, the Japanese principle for long and happy life.

What is Ikigai?

In his book, Gordon Mathews discusses the fundamental philosophical question of what makes life worth living by examining individuals in the United States and Japan. He explores how people from two diverse cultures find meaning in their daily lives by engaging in a variety of ideas about work, religion, love, creativity and self-realization basing it on Ikigai.

According to the Japanese dictionary, Ikigai is ‘the happiness and benefit of being alive’. The term consists of two Japanese words, iki - life and kai- use/benefit. Broadly it translates to a reason for living that makes life meaningful and worth living. It is about discovering our wonderful capabilities to share them with the world for the benefit of others.

The book Ikigai, an international bestseller by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, mentions that Ikigai is the intersection of passion, mission, vocation and profession, that provides ‘a reason to jump out of bed each morning'.

The authors discovered this while interviewing more than 100 villagers in Okinawa - a Japanese island one of the world's blue zones - known as the land of immortals due to amazingly high life expectancy with many residents living a long, healthy and happy life.

This intrigued the world. It was found that apart from following a wholesome lifestyle including nutritious food and exercise, a positive attitude towards life combined with a sense of caring for the community could be attributed to a reduction of all forms of physical, mental and emotional stress, resulting in enhanced health.

Tim Tamashiro an explorer, jazz singer, storyteller, former CBC Radio host, and the author of How to Ikigai: Lessons for Finding Happiness and Living Your Life's Purpose, in his says in his TED talk, “This word (Ikigai) is really like a treasure map. And, this treasure map can help you find your way to finding wonderful things about yourself that you can share with the world, and the world will say ‘thank you’ for it.”

Discovering Your Ikigai


There is no set formula or pattern to discover Ikigai. However, as the likes, passions, aspirations and happiness are distinct for everyone, the discovery of Ikigai is a distinctive journey. You cannot learn, follow or copy anyone.l area holding them together, which according to this principle is the location of Ikigai.

There is no set formula or pattern to discover Ikigai. However, as the likes, passions, aspirations and happiness are distinct for everyone, the discovery of Ikigai is a distinctive journey. You cannot learn, follow or copy anyone.

Location of Your Ikigai

  • What you love

  • What you are good at

  • What the world needs

  • What you can be paid for

Where Do I Start?

To find your Ikigai, Tamashiro suggests starting a part-time hustle. Even if you do what you love and what you are good at for a few hours every day, it makes a difference in your general well-being.

Later, you can explore the possibility of getting paid, and part-time Ikigai can become a fulltime Ikigai over a period of time.

Here are some tips for you to start.

Morning Magic

Try getting up early. If you get up late try to deviate from this practice slowly by getting up 10 minutes early. Look at trees or water your plants. Connecting with nature is an important principle of Ikigai.

Mindfulness

Immersing yourself in the moment or mindfulness helps to reduce stress and makes you happy by just being where you are. As Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life says, “Breathe and let be.”

Be present in the activity engaged. If you are washing dishes, do them with complete dedication. Feel the coolness of the water, observe the soap bubbles, and listen to the sound of running water. You will feel peaceful.

Explore a Hobby

What made you happy as a child? Perhaps it was doodling or singing. Make a list. It could be reading, gardening, knitting or sketching. Engage in such an activity mindfully for some time every day. Try spending some time in pursuing your hobby to experience happiness in creativity.

Slow Down

By running through days, we race through life without living it. Slowing down helps us to connect with our hearts and passion. A few moments of quietude on a daily basis can lead you towards your Ikigai.

No Need for Perfection

Perfection closes you in a cage. Happiness is experienced by allowing the freedom to learn. Accept mistakes as part of the process. You are forming a path to your Ikigai and the fear of mistakes will make you look for directions that don’t exist. Mistakes and errors help us to experience a multitude of options and foster creativity.

Ikigai is unique for everyone. There is no guide to follow. Start with one small imperfect step and see what happens. It is more about happiness and joy experienced while mindfully engaging in any activity. Your Ikigai offers you a reason to be always active. You never retire. Ikigai is not always about money and can be pursued for spiritual wealth, however, it can become a source of income if you wish.

Take a journal and list a few things you loved doing as a child or teenager or even as an adult. Was it clicking pictures, or doodling or making chocolates? Perhaps you loved listening to the stories narrated by your grandparents? If yes, then how about compiling them together? You could create a blog or write articles.

The possibilities are endless, you just need to explore them. As Hector Garcia Puigcerver says in the book “essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

Explore something special for you to do, something to love and hope for, to enjoy a long, happy and healthy life.

(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting, and travel.)

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