On an island in Okinawa, Japan, lives a group of people who are classified among the blue zone of the world. These people enjoy the longest average lifespans in the world and produce a high rate of centenarians. The Okinawa residents suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the world, and enjoy more healthy years of life.
What’s their secret? For one, they eat lots of vegetables and stay active. They grow gardens and get lots of sunshine. They also have strong social networks and engagements, but most fascinating, Okinawans live longer because of the concept of Ikigai – “the reason to wake up in the morning.”
Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the cultural belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.
An important distinction is that ikigai doesn’t solely mean your career or your economic status, but it is representative of all aspects of your life: hobbies, relationships, careers, spirituality, and so on. It is the culmination of your life as a whole.
How Do You Achieve Ikigai?
Ikigai can be achieved by answering four distinct questions.
1. What do you love?
Irrespective of all other factors, what are the things you love to do? You probably are aware of these already, though you may not know what to do with them quite yet. If you’re not sure, answer this: if money were no object, how would you spend your time?
2. What does the world need?
For every problem, there is a solution. In our own cities and villages in Nigeria to half way across the world, there are a lot of problems to be solved. If you can find one that interests you, then you can use that to guide you.
3. What can you be paid for?
What service, value or skill do you bring, or could you bring, that brings real value to others? Something people need and are happy to pay for or share some value in exchange? There’s something of value within the things you love and what the world needs.
4. What are you good at?
What unique skills do you have that come most naturally to you? What talents have you cultivated and what do you excel at even when you aren’t trying? If you look at yourself, you have inherent strengths.
Take some time to write the words, phrases and ideas that come up for you through each question, then look for areas of natural overlap among the four questions. Reflect on the sum total of these elements and how they may relate to each other. Bring yourself quietly to the recurring answer among the questions and leave space in your mind for new things that might pop up in the incoming days. While you ponder, ask yourself, “what is one simple thing I can do or be today that would be an expression of my ikigai?”