Yukari Mitsuhashi did a good job in decoding the traditional Japanese concept of embodying happiness in human lives. It is unfortunate that there isn’t a lot of work on Japanese tradition and lifestyle in foreign languages. ‘Ikigai’ addresses this issue by presenting Mitsuhashi’s research on the key concepts in the Japanese lifestyle of the same name. It is also evident that a good amount of time has been invested in the books’ design and one is bound to feel pleasant while going through the Japanese characters in the sky blue themed book.
The word IKIGAI is formed of two Japanese characters ‘iki’ meaning life and ‘gai’ meaning value or worth. The concept of ikigai is not included in the Japanese formal education but is deeply engraved in the Japanese psyche. The author tried defining ‘Ikigai’ as follows – it is about the joy a person finds in living from day to day, without which their life as a whole would not be a happy one (I believe it is an important perspective to look at as we often spend a lot of time on defining our life as a whole to be a happy one instead of looking at it one day at a time). One’s ikigai could be anything from watering plants to starting up their own enterprise, each person’s ikigai could be different and could keep changing over time. The author describes a path and some actionable items to think about, during the process of finding one’s ikigai.
When trying to define our ‘ikigai’, we need to keep the following framework in mind.
- Everyday > Lifetime: From the definition of the author as mentioned above, living each day with joy would sum up to a joyful life as a whole.
- External world > Internal world: As we are all social beings and the ‘ikigai’ of ours is linked to the world around us and not just limited to within.
- Giving > Receiving: The proud feeling of lending a hand to others in need/passing on knowledge and wisdom to others has its own importance.
- Fluid > Fixed: This enables us to keep looking at things that are fluid in nature such as plants (that grow), children who learn and grow etc.
- Emotional > Logical: ‘Ikigai’ is more related to the heart than the head and in order to feel the ikigai, it should have an emotional connection with us.
- Specific > Abstract: We might have really ambitious goals to solve the worlds’ problems but we first need to start solving the smaller, more specific issues around us.
- Active > Passive: ‘Ikigai’ belongs to the world of action, after all it is something that gets you up in the morning.
Ikigai lies in different areas of our lives ranging from small interests/hobbies to work life aspirations, it can be shared with others, it belongs to any/every aged person. Most of us often complain about work lives and say that we don’t belong there – but did we try taking the responsibility of doing the same work in our own style by expressing ourselves creatively? (Try asking these questions about your work – What tasks am I doing? How do I feel about each of these tasks? How am I spending my time? Whom am I talking to or connecting to virtually or in reality?)
The following are a few examples of some people and their ikigai (this could help us understand what our ikigai could be)
- Rika Yajima, Founder of AERU– Her Ikigai is to live, or aspire to live in a beautiful world. ‘Beautiful’ can mean many things, including harmony and comfort, as well as looking or feeling beautiful. She defines ikigai as something that makes one feel grateful for being alive and is accompanied by positive feelings such as excitement or happiness. She believes that the only way to find one’s ikigai to is to have a continuous dialogue with oneself.
- Ryuichiro Takeshita, Editor in Chief, HuffPost Jpn – His ikigai is to connect different worlds which he does through his work by merging print and digital media., Iin his personal life he achieves it through learning about different values, meeting people of different ages and finding a way to bridge the gap between the two. He believes that if one is not able to find ikigai, he/she should probably stop looking so hard and wait for it to come by naturally.
- Haruka Mera, Founder of Readyfor – Her ikigai is helping other people achieve their goals. She defines ikigai as a mission and a responsibility to society, something she feels she has to do and take action on.
- Midori Sakano, Creative Director at Skylar – Her ikigai used to be ‘set goals for herself and accomplish them’, it changed after her daughter was born. Her daughter is now her ikigai.
- Yuko Kaifu, President at Japan house – Her ikigai is her work (not to fulfill her financial needs but to have a fulfillment and sense of achievement through her work). Her work gives her the vitality to move forward.
- Dai Tamesue, Former athlete and currently the President of Deportare Partners – He is happiest when he is gaining a deeper understanding of something. When he helps other people’s understanding or perceptions of things, and when he finds a new side of him.
The following are the questions that the author recommends everyone to ask themselves in the journey of finding their ikigai:
- Going back to my childhood, what did I enjoy the most? What incidents or events do I remember strongly ? Does it still affect me today?
- Looking at my life, what were the memorable moments where my emotions were stirred?
- What brings happiness to my everyday life?
- When do I feel the happiest?
- What is the most fulfilling way I spend my time?
- What puts a smileputs smile on my face just thinking about it?
- When have I experienced strong emotions ? When do I feel myself moved, and by what?
- Where does my curiosity lie?
- What keeps me from being bored?
- What aspects of my life do I seek change in?
- What is something I do even though no one asks me to?
- What would I still pursue even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand?
- What would I do if I have money to live life happily ever after?
- What events do I look forward to in the future?
- What changes do I wish for in the future? What can I do about them?
- What makes me want to be alive to see tomorrow?
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