The Japanese idea of 'ikigai' shows you how to find meaning in your own life

A Japanese proverb says, "Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years". Here's how

Raiyaan Tabassum Imita
Published : 26 Jan 2023, 01:48 PM
Updated : 26 Jan 2023, 01:48 PM

We have all complained about our hectic but sedentary lives at some point. They seem filled with disappointment – not getting to study what we want, doing work we find distasteful, being dissatisfied with our looks and the way our hair goes grey. The truth is happiness is simply a choice. To be happy, we need to find ways to achieve happiness. 

The Japanese term 'ikigai', 'iki' meaning life and 'gai' meaning alive, benefit or worth, means 'finding flow in everything with a purposeful feeling'. To put it briefly, this means having a purpose in life while enjoying our day-to-day work. Ikigai synthesises your passion, mission, profession, and vocation.

According to one Japanese proverb, "Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years." 

Accompanied by a nutritious diet and some active exercise, engaging in activities that provide satisfaction helps us to lead a healthy and long life.  

Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the authors of the bestselling book series The Book Of Ichigo Ichie, describe ways to find your ikigai with the help of examples from places where people live longer on average than others. The authors say there are five 'blue zones' around the world where people tend to live to be 100 years old or older: Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda, California in the US. 

According to Garcia and Miralles in their bestselling book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, there are ten rules to finding your purpose.


As stated earlier, happiness is often just a mere choice. Having an accurate idea of what task we are doing and concentrating on one task at a time can help us find the flow to our work. By entering this workflow, we can start enjoying things we usually would not, like tedious office work or stressful studying.  


We all have a unique talent, a gift from the Creator. It drives us to achieve the best versions of ourselves. We feel confident and love to immerse ourselves in such works. We should work on something we feel passionate about, or at least achieve mastery in that field. 


Losing our life's purpose is a red flag for our psyches. What we can do is to keep going, to keep working to pursue our dreams till the end. Either we succeed, or we'll learn something important along the way. 


We often regret our past or procrastinate about our future. Doing so enormously reduces the energy we have to focus on the present and finish our work smoothly. These bad habits can exacerbate other psychological issues, including ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), depression, and anxiety disorder. As Grand Master Oogway says in Kung Fu Panda, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the 'present'."  


Human beings are often considered the most ungrateful species alive on this planet. Instead of complaining, we should be grateful for our lives and approach them and the advantages we already enjoy with optimism. 


We often find ourselves under pressure from various external and personal factors in our life. When a new danger crops up out of the blue, we can start to panic. This kind of stress is malicious to both our physique and psyche. In these moments, we must stay calm and acknowledge the reality of the situation first. Only then will we be able to think of a solution and work towards it. 


Resilience is the ability to endure harm without weakening. It means accepting everything life throws at us without blaming others, getting frustrated, and feeling discouraged. The more resilient we are, the easier it will be for us to handle future obstacles without breaking down.


A nutritious diet full of high fibre and protein and fewer calories helps us live longer and healthier. It is better to eat a little less so that you avoid the uncomfortable sensation of being too full. This habit will also help our metabolism work more efficiently.  


Know yourself better. Be confident about your strong points and embrace your weaknesses. Smile more to show your friendliness. Whatever may happen in life, accept it enthusiastically. This kind of optimism helps our persona flourish tremendously. 


The social circle we keep defines the ways we behave. As the proverb goes, birds of a feather flock together. So, we must be careful about the people we choose to spend time with. To practice good habits and good thinking, we should surround ourselves with people who can teach us and who will help us nurture our best qualities. 

As the book argues, finding your ikigai, direction, and motivation is simply a choice. You can take a step right now by embracing the possibilities and seeing the changes in yourself. All you need to do is be willing to change your life and remain firm in your resolve.

This article is part of Stripe,'s special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.