Ikigai is a wonderful Japanese concept, one that deeply resonates with me because it helps me be centered, feel joyful and stay mindful of what’s important in life. It helps me keep things in perspective and make decisions based on reason, rather than emotion.
Ikigai combines two Japanese words. The first word is ikiru, which means "to live," and the second is kai, which means "the realization of what one hopes for." Ikigai can loosely be defined as "a reason to live" -- having a life's purpose.
The Japanese believe that every person has an ikigai. I believe everyone can benefit from finding their own.
Knowing your purpose for living helps you continuously work on having the best life possible and becoming the best version of yourself.
A state of mind is crucial in moving on and having an open mind and a warm heart that makes you feel free and liberated. To find your ikigai, letting go of emotional blocks that hold you back and suppress your creativity and joy within is key for exploring your full potential.
It also clarifies any decision-making process, because if you know why you do things, you'll have a better idea about what to do.
Finding my ikigai has been a long journey. My upbringing taught me some unhelpful habits of mind — resentment, oversensitivity, anger.
I found these impulses hard to overcome — until I understood my life's purpose. Once you know why you're on this planet, you realize that negative emotions just get in the way.
It’s something that I’ve intentionally tried to cultivate in my life, even before knew about the Japanese word, based on my own personal belief system and values.
I learned to be intentional about following my own rules and aspirations to live by as part of my training when I studied to become a holistic health counselor in New York City. It’s the same approach I take with my holistic health counseling clients.
As part of my health counseling program, I try to inculcate physical and spiritual development, so to speak, to create harmony. I believe that for total health, finding or discovering your own ikigai -- your reason for being -- is an important part of what makes you look forward to getting up in the morning, helps you sleep well at night, and drives you to achieve everything in between.
Find your ikigai by looking for your answers to what makes your life purposeful and a joy to live.
What do I love? What am I good at? What does the world need from me? What can I get paid for?
Find the point of intersection where all four of these questions meet.
Sometimes it's easy. For my husband, the answer to all four questions is the same: writing. And so he writes.
Sometimes it's more complicated. In my own life, I know I love to eat and travel. I have a gift for making delicious, healthy food. The world clearly needs help getting healthy. And it wasn't clear what I could get paid for.
It took awhile, but the answer to the question of my ikigai is: My ikigai is to help others be healthy and happy. And all that is reflected in my company, Elgan Media, Inc., (which I run and co-own with my husband and which is a food, travel & tech media company.) Our workshops, books, blog posts, podcasts, articles and The Gastronomad Experiences collectively serve as the expression of my ikigai.
We all want a life of purpose, meaning and fulfillment. Ikigai is a simple concept but a truly powerful one that embodies the secret a long and joyful life. It can help, not as a lifestyle but as a process to apply to life -- an idea, a keyword or even a vision that can remind you to look into the horizon to have a good perspective on the “big picture” that is your life.
Life is too short to live without ikigai. You don't have time not to find it.