What makes you jump out of bed every morning? Is it the excitement of going for a morning run? The thought of finishing the last chapter of your book? Or your violin class in the evening?

Whatever your reason, the thing that makes you spring out of bed each day is your ikigai, a Japanese concept that roughly translates as “reason for being”.

What Is Ikigai?

One of the universal truths of life is that people always excel at what they love doing.

Think about it. If you don’t have any passion for your work or if it doesn’t make you happy, you won’t be driven. A good salary and perks can push you temporarily but eventually, you will lose interest.

People need more than a paycheck to feel driven and passionate about their work. That’s what ikigai is about.

Loosely translated, ikigai is your purpose. It comes from two Japanese words: iki, which means life, and gai, or value.

This traditional concept from the Japanese region of Okinawa is often considered the reason for the longevity and happiness of the locals.

What Is The Importance Of Ikigai?

“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,” Héctor García, who co-authored Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life, wrote in The Guardian.

“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.”

 Ikigai comprises four components that are essential in determining one’s true purpose in life. These are:

1. Passion 

2. Mission 

3. Vocation 

4. Profession

Your passion and mission make up what you love. Your mission and vocation together are what the world needs. Your vocation and profession are what you can be paid for, and your passion and profession together tell you what you are good at.

Ikigai is a combination of all four: passion, mission, vocation, and profession.

Let’s look at an example to understand the Japanese concept of ikigai better.

Rohan was passionate about sports and he wanted to make a career as a sportsperson. He also loved technology and was quite a whiz at software development.

Over time, he realized his sports career wasn’t taking off and began working at a technology development center. As he designed smart solutions to help resolve community issues, the knowledge that his products were helping people made him truly happy and motivated him to work harder. So this was Rohan’s ikigai. By focusing on finding an optimal mix of the above four points, you can also find your ikigai.

How to find your ikigai?

The pursuit of the Japanese concept of ikigai becomes easier when we focus on discovering a purpose that answers the following four basic questions:

  1. What do I love? When you love what you do, you never get tired of it.

  2. What does the world need? Do you see a problem you want to solve or a cause you want to dedicate yourself to?

  3.  What do I excel in? It is important to love something and also to be good at it.

  4. Can I get paid for it? It is important to understand that your vocation should have financial value or it will become unsustainable in the long run.

Any act, ability, or skill that is of no utility to the world and is devoid of commercial value will not be in sync with the meaning of ikigai.

The benefits of Japanese ikigai

The writers of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life outline 10 rules that clarify the meaning of ikigai. Let’s look at these 10 points that can bring to you the benefits of Japanese ikigai:

  1. Never stop working

  2. Don’t hurry through things, slow down and enjoy them 

  3. Eat only until your stomach is 80% full 

  4. Keep the company of good friends 

  5. Stay fit by doing daily exercise

  6. Smile frequently and acknowledge as well as appreciate others

  7. Re-establish your connection with nature

  8. Express gratitude to anyone who helps you enjoy life and makes you feel positive

  9. Plan for the future, but don’t forget to live in the moment

  10. Follow your ikigai


The meaning of ikigai implies that it is important for us to understand ourselves deeply and identify our one true passion that is sustainable, contributes to our personal growth, and benefits society.

Harappa Education’s Discovering Purpose course has a section on ikigai that helps learners understand the concept of Japanese ikigai. Enroll in the course to harness the potential of ikigai to transform your life.

Also, discover topics such as Life PurposeEmbrace ChangeHow to Achieve GoalsHow to Find Your PassionHow to Deal With Failure from our Harappa Diaries section and lead towards a path of self-development.

Illustrations by Chandrima Chatterjee, a Specialist with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. 

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