Get Your Shit Together with Ikigai


From Hygge to Lagom, there is a lot of buzz these days around the lifestyles of other cultures. Ikigai [ik-ee-guy] is a philosophy from Japan that basically means “the fulfillment from always being busy.” No, not powering through 7,000 unread emails, chugging espresso shots, and working through lunch kind of busy. The kind of busy that comes from always working toward your greater purpose. 

If you haven’t heard, residents of Okinawa, Japan are some of the longest-living people on earth. This could have a lot to do with their diet and geographic location, of course, but their Ikigai mindest is considered a huge factor. Living to be over 100 (plus still being active and healthy and happy??) is no small feat.

Don’t know your greater purpose? 

Welcome to my club! Each week Martha brings homemade snickerdoodles and we all sit around having communal existential crises about the future, chasing profit at the sacrifice of passion, and feeling lost. Best of all, there’s no monthly fee! 

Seriously, though, the whole point of Ikigai is to figure out what DOES bring value to your life. And it’s not a static answer, either. Your Ikigai will change and grow with you throughout your life, so there’s no pressure to find an answer that you’ll be happy with until the day you die (which, if you live like an Okinawa-in, could be a very long time). Unlike the highly-touted Danish lifestyles, embracing Ikigai doesn’t necessarily involve a lengthy lifestyle overhaul. There are a few loose guidelines you could follow (such as not retiring, staying socially active, and practicing positivity), but they’re more like the cherry on top. 

Your Ikigai is considered the sweet spot between your passion, profession, vocation, and overall mission. You may have noticed that nifty graphic at the beginning of this article; this is going to be your outline. Take out a piece of paper, draw some circles, and get to brainstorming. To help get you started here’s part of my Ikigai-brainstorming session:

What I’m good at…

  • Writing
  • Marketing
  • Baking elaborate desserts 
  • Being neurotic Being organized/planning
  • Creating visuals 

What I love…

  • Learning new things (whether through documentaries or YouTube videos or articles)
  • Writing
  • Art
  • Trying personal challenges
  • Showing people new things 

What the world needs…

  • Help
  • People who are pursuing their purpose + passion 
  • More tolerance 
  • Loving people dedicated to making positive changes (a la Lauren Singer) 

What I could get paid for…

  • Copywriting / creating visuals 
  • Social media management 
  • Lemonade stand
  • Marketing
  • Flipping clothes on eBay 

Now, after your venn diagram is filled out (is it still a venn diagram if there are more than two circles?) look for where these things overlap. So, if you love writing and are good at it, that will go into your “passion” inner circle. If you can get paid for re-selling clothes and you think the world needs more sustainability, that would fall into your “vocation” circle. Once these inner circles are filled out, try and extrapolate the one thing that meets all four of these characteristics.

Ding ding ding! That’s your Ikigai! 

If you decide to try this exercise for yourself, PLEASE tag me on Instagram so I can marvel at your inspiring, creative genius. Leave a comment if you have any other questions about embracing your Ikigai (not an expert but while researching this article I absorbed a slew of other related tips if you’re curious). Also, let me know what your favorite cultural philosophy / lifestyle is (so I can binge read articles about it and quench my neverending desire to learn new things)! 

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