Discover your ikigai
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question which is sadly getting more pressing as I continue my university journey. Now, as I become a finalist, it’s a question I cannot avoid anymore. My career aspirations have developed from Austrian tram driver to vet to traffic cop and now? Who knows.
All I know is that I want to be fulfilled, to get up in the morning and feel great for the day ahead, but that is easier said than done.
The Japanese have a phrase for this mysterious job for me which will get me out of bed with a spring in my step – my Ikigai. Iki means “life” and gai means “benefit”, Ikigai means “reason for being”. It’s a balance between what you need practically (money) and what you need mentally and emotionally (joy and fulfilment). It is often explained as a Venn diagram, coinciding your passions and your material wants and needs.
In fact we all have Ikigai right now, there’s something we are looking forward to, a reason for waking up. It may not be perfect (trust me, mine isn’t) but everyone has a spark. There is something you enjoy and entertains you. It’s important to maintain this happiness, if you aren’t feeling so good at the moment, what has changed? Which of the four parts of Ikigai are you missing?
Is this even scientific?
Yes, and I read a whole paper on it to convert you (Fido, Kotera, & Asano, 2019)
It has been scientifically shown that having Ikigai improves the self-reported physical wellbeing of the elderly. Plus it has been shown that it improves mental wellbeing and mortality rates, including significant reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
How can I measure my Ikigai?
Researchers translated 9 questions into English to score participant’s Ikigai. Score these questions out of 5 to evaluate your own Ikigai. It might be worth scoring yourself every few months of so, register how you are feeling.
- I often feel that I am happy.
- I would like to learn something new or start something.
- I feel that I am contributing to someone or the society.
- I have room in my mind.
- I am interested in many things.
- I think that my existence is needed by something or someone.
- My life is mentally rich and fulfilled.
- I would like to develop myself.
- I believe that I have some impact on someone.
This sounds great, but how do I even start?
Register what you are missing – Does something feel different than a few months ago? What are you missing that you once had and how can you implement that back into your life. I’ll give you an example, I used to be President of a society at Warwick. That role was something I loved and a role I was good at. Since last year I have really missed the purpose it gave me. Maybe it’s time for me to get involved with another society again.
Think about what used to make you happy – I’m talking about your childhood here. Think about what you enjoyed when you were younger. When you were little you may have been influenced less by societal pressure and socio-economic factors compared to now. Harnessing what you liked then may be a more unbiased approach to evaluating your joys.
Find your purpose – Purposes come, go and develop in life. Finish these sentences to get an idea of self. I’ll finish some for you from my point of view too
- When I was a child, I loved painting and writing stories.
- If money didn’t matter, I would be a volunteer at my local hospital.
- If I believed I could not fail, I would set up an online shop for my art.
- I completely lose track of time when I am video calling the people who mean the most to me.
- I am most happy with who I am when I…
- I am really good at…
- If I didn’t care what others thought of me, I would…
- In my free time, I love to…
- If I only had six months to live, I would spend my time…
- If I were to die tomorrow, I would regret that I did not…
- The following people inspire me because they…
You get the idea. The important thing is to take action, even when you’re having a bad day you can answer these questions. Start thinking seriously about the answers and implementing them significantly within your life.