I Woke Up This Morning

Ikigai

Jan 15, 2015 2 minute read

Voetbal Belgie tegen Nederland 1-4 te Antwerpen, het Belgische elftal - Location: België, Antwerpen, Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 - negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang 2.24.01.05, bestanddeelnummer 911-6400

I first heard about Ikigai in a Dan Buettner talk on how to live to be 100+. That’s a fascinating talk in itself, but what most stuck with me was the concept of Ikigai. Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. Everyone, according to the Japanese has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.

This is no small beer. It’s your reason for being, well, good morning to that. Pun intented, the article continues by pointing out that in Okinawa (to be particular), it is a reason to get up in the morning.

Apart from being of theoretical interest and sounding great but terribly uncomfortable (“Hey, do you have that?” he asks. “Hmm, no, I don’t think so,” he sighs”), why are we supposed to care?

For one, Dan Buettner claims it is a crucial element to have a long life (and not even a long miserable life, no, a long content life, imagine that).

“But I don’t care about a long life,” you say. That’s OK. Class dismissed, you can stop reading this.

For all the others, so how can I get that Ikigai thing? I don’t have the answer to that (see, you made it only 1 useless paragraph further than the people who didn’t care in the first place, isn’t that depressing?). The short article How to Find your Purpose and Live it lists some questions that you can use to figure out your Purpose:

  1. How will the world be better off thanks to you having been on this earth?
  2. What are your unique gifts and superpowers?
  3. Who have you been when you’ve been at your best?
  4. Who must you fearlessly become?

Are your tired now? Me too. I’m missing the whole what if playing soccer is the reason I gladly get up in the morning, or, better, what if watching soccer is the reason I gladly get up in the morning. Is the requirement with Ikigai that one excells? That one uses unique gifts and superpowers? I don’t think so. So, Ikigai is clearly not the same as purpose (as defined by the above). Still not closer to finding out what it is.

I’m suspecting Ikigai is defined as to have no clear definition (paradox, anyone?). It’s a bit like Something is causing you to be happy and that Something is your Ikigai and it will make you happy. But it is personal, there are no steps or plan to obtain it, and you will just know when you have it.

I think I’ll go watch some soccer.