Ikigai Is the Japanese Way of Life That Promises Happiness

published Sep 22, 2017
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

The Danish term describing the concept of coziness — hygge — embodies a feeling of warmth, and it was the “it” phrase for the end of 2016. At the start of this year, hygge faced fierce competition from lagom, yet another Scandinavian buzzword. Now there’s a new lifestyle concept from Japan: ikigai.

At its core, ikigai is the exact opposite of hygge. While hygge promotes a slower-paced life emphasizing self-care and taking time out for yourself, ikigai is more motivating — it focuses on finding your purpose in life.

According to BBC: “There is no direct English translation, but it’s a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living. Essentially, ikigai is the reason why you get up in the morning.”

There may even be some (unofficial) link between ikigai and life longevity. As the Guardian points out, the Japanese have the longest life expectancy in the world and some studies have found those who push off retirement by a year live longer.

“In Japanese culture, retiring and not keeping your mind and body busy is seen as being bad for your health since it disconnects your soul from your ikigai,” writes Héctor García, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, for the Guardian. “Ikigai can be translated as ‘a reason for being’ — the thing that gets you out of bed each morning. Finding your ikigai is felt to be crucial to longevity and a life full of meaning. The people of Japan keep doing what they love, what they are good at, and what the world needs even after they have left the office for the last time.”

Understanding ikigai can be tricky, let alone finding your own. But the way to start navigating the philosophy is to ask yourself four questions: What do you love? What are you good at? What does the world need from you? What can you get paid for?

Are you familiar with this term? Let us know in the comments!