Ikigai - The Art of Living Intentionally
Ikigai [ee-kee-guy] : Iki; to live, alive. Gai; an effect, a result, a worth.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese concept of living your life meaningfully, mindfully, and with intention. An ancient concept that has been a huge part of Japanese culture since time immemorial, Ikigai refers to having a sense of purpose in one’s life that is attached to or centered around 3 main things: what you value, what you like doing, and what you’re good at.
What does this mean? Let’s unpack it together.
An easy way to think about Ikigai is like this: can you, or anyone you know, truly say that you’re content in your life? That your actions, values, and words are driven with a sense of deep inner purpose, and that everything you do helps you achieve what it is that you’re most passionate about?
If your answer is no, then like most of society, you could do with learning how to incorporate Ikigai in your life.
In today’s day and age, where there is a constant influx of information coming in from every direction and our ability to access it is always at the tip of our fingers, it’s pretty common to feel like we’re living every day without a sense of purpose or direction. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that most of us are just following the latest trends, copying the loudest opinions, and hopping onto the newest way of being “woke”. With our attention pulled in a million different directions, there’s a sense of emptiness and indifference in our lives.
Image: Young man sitting in front of laptop
Image Description: Man sitting in cubicle holding his head in his hand with a laptop in front of him
Thankfully, here is where Ikigai comes in handy because it is rooted in helping us achieve a long, happy, meaningful life.
But how does one find their ikigai?
Finding your Ikigai
It isn’t as complicated as it might sound. More often than not, the answer is right in front of our faces.
Think of someone whose life, career, or chosen path you envy. What is it about them that makes you wish you had their life?
Did your mind get pulled in a certain direction? Ding, ding, ding! We’ve found it!
Image: Silhouette of girl sitting in front of lake
Image Description: Girl sitting in front of water with a wooden bench next to her silhouetted by the sun
The thing that you’re passionate about but, for some reason, aren’t pursuing. Since ikigai is about 3 main things (what you value, what you like doing, and what you’re good at), it doesn’t take too much effort to come to a conclusion: do you love to write fiction, but are stuck in a writing job that makes better money? Are you at your best when you’re speaking in public and motivating others, yet your current career is headed towards a more corporate path? Well, now that you know what you’re passionate about and what you would like to be doing, try and find the best medium for expressing it. If you’re unhappy with your current path, what steps can you take to move towards the one that would make you happiest?
And if it’s not possible to suddenly up and change your path, then don’t worry.
Ikigai isn’t just a way of thinking, but also a way of being. Once you’ve found your ikigai, it’s easy to put it into action, even in the smallest of ways. Based on the concept of ‘seikatsu’, which means ‘everyday life’ Japanese people believe that while your work can be your ikigai, it’s also the smaller, daily things in your life that should make up the sum of your happiness. For example, what are some small things you can do in the daily routine that can bring you small moments of joy? Perhaps what will make you happy every coming day is looking forward to wearing new and funky versions of comfortable leather footwear, like Kolhart, which bases all of their designs on the concept of minimal, colorful, and simple footwear, or maybe you’d enjoy setting aside time to read your favorite books which are piling up on your bookshelf.
Image: Woman reading book
Image Description: Woman on pink sofa in white dress reading a book
After all, ikigai is your life’s purpose in action, so while you may know what your ikigai is, you also need to practice it in your daily life. It’s not necessary to always think big. Start with thinking small: what will bring you a sense of serenity and joy is when your work, actions, or words make a difference in people’s lives, rather than any grand or material outcomes. Get your neighbor a really comfortable pair of Kolhart Khussa’s, or cook your favorite meal every weekend; if you can do anything in the service of others and yourself that can bring joy, you’re on your way to practicing Ikiai.
Begin with getting to know yourself, and things will start falling into place.