Ikigai - The Japanese concept of finding happiness


The Japanese concept of finding happiness

We all want to be happy but many of us have no idea of what to do to achieve happiness. Should we focus on making money or pursuing our passions? Some people desire objects and money, others feel dissatisfaction at the relentless pursuit of material wealth and fame and are driven to achieve something “bigger”.

Missing something!

One of the mistakes I’ve made in my life was believing that if I had money, that would provide me with happiness and a contented life. That’s one of the few reasons why I chose a career in finance. But the result was an existential frustration that stemmed from conflicting desires. I always felt I was missing a certain something that I could not put my finger on.

My husband has always followed “his bliss”. His ethos is “find your passion - what brings you joy, and don’t be afraid to follow it”. That made me wonder and motivated me to embark on my own journey of exploration and I began to reflect on my “ikigai”.

What is ikigai

“Ikigai” is a Japanese concept. There is no direct English translation, but it’s a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living - the reason to jump out of bed each morning. It doesn’t have to be anything world shattering - it can be ping pong!

Essentially, ikigai means a reason for being or having a meaningful life. Having a clear concept of what you want from life can provide direction, leading to feeling motivated, a sense of purpose, a mental state in which the individual feels at ease, and a sense of fulfilment and joy.

To find your ikigai, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What inspires you? (your passion).
  2. What are you good at? (your profession)
  3. What do you find rewarding? (making a valuable contribution to yourself and others).

The concept of ikigai is at the convergence of three primary elements as demonstrated by the Venn diagram below -:

Text Box: Ikigayi

You can find your ikigai at any stage of your life.

  • Younger days - Many young people struggle to find their purpose. By identifying what excites them, what makes them lose the sense of time, what brings out the best in them, they can find a profession that is rewarding and fulfilling.
  • Working life - How people find meaning in their work is a topic of much interest to management experts. Research informs us that, employees are motivated when they feel they matter and what they do matters. People who find their ikigai in work, all have one thing in common: they are highly productive.
  • Retirement - When retirement comes, it can bring a huge sense of loss and emptiness if you have nothing to look forward to. Studies show that people who perceive their occupation as their identity find it challenging to adjust to retirement. It is therefore important to find your ikigai outside of work before reaching retirement to prevent that empty feeling.

How Ikigai Helped Me Find Happiness

My journey in self-reflection and exploration led me to my ikigai … my passion to help people live up to their full potential, to not just survive but to thrive. My role as a counsellor and psychotherapist is the vehicle through which I can have a positive impact on people’s lives by helping them find ways to deal with emotional issues, giving hope that we all have the capacity and resilience to overcome or cope with life’s stressors. Seeing how I can help make a positive difference by encouraging and helping to empower individuals to make changes, take greater control of their lives and improve their confidence, is really rewarding.

Discovering my own ikigai has brought fulfilment, happiness and joy. It’s the reason I get out of bed in the morning. What’s your Ikigai? What makes you want to get up in the morning?         

Copyright © 2020 Kalpna Hirani

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