There are parts of the world where the indigenes live much longer than average, these parts of the world are known as the blue zones, amongst this fascinating demographic are a group of people who live on an island in Okinawa Japan. 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 have an omnivorous diet with a high consumption of plants, they engage in constant moderate physical activity and 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.”
According to Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai. Discovering it requires an instropective and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is essential 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?
1. What do you love? (passion and mission)
Irrespective of all other factors or what you are doing presently, what are the things that makes your heart leap? What do 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? What will you create?
2. What does the world need? (Mission and Vocation)
When you were born, a problem was solved. Found out what it is? 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? (Profession and Vocation)
What’s the meeting point between what you love and what the world needs? 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?(Passion and Profession)
What are the skills that come naturally to you and seem harder to others? What talents have you cultivated and what do you excel at even when you aren’t trying? Everyone has inherent strengths, what’s yours?
kigai can be applied in multiple ways from work to how you spend your time in retirement and everything in between. 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?”