If you’re dragging yourself out of bed every morning it may be because you haven’t found your ikigai yet. That’s what fuels your day, keeps you going, and holds the key to a long and happy life.
Ikigai (pronounced “eye-key- guy”) is a combination of the Japanese words “iki” which translates to “life” and “gai” – used to describe value or worth. So ikigai is all about finding joy in life through purpose while at the same time increasing life expectancy.
A 2017 study published in JAMA Psychiatry confirms that a sense of purpose in life helps people maintain their function and independence as they age.
Laura Bannerman is a qualified counsellor and author of the upcoming book, Girl Seeks Life: A Guide to Understanding Yourself. She says more meaning and purpose in our lives actually creates better self-care patterns both physically and emotionally as we tend to look after ourselves better.
“Expect improved overall general health such as reduced levels of stress. You’ll sleep better and enjoy better heart health, including more resilience, lower levels of inflammation and increased longevity,” says Bannerman.
“Ikigai encompasses so much of what is practical in our world today and can also answer those bigger existential questions: ‘Why am I here?’ or ‘What is the purpose of my life?’ all by looking into the four pillars of ikigai,” she says.
Bannerman suggests the use of journalling techniques to explore all four pillar of ikigai.
“Freely write down everything that comes up when you phrase each of the four pillars as a question to yourself and brainstorm the answers. This creates a pathway of insight for deeper understanding of yourself and allows the potential for your life priorities to begin to shift: what your life purpose could encompass and how you can achieve it.”
Pillar one: That which you love
In finding what you love, think about what energises and inspires you.
“At the end of the day, that comes down to what’s important to you and what your values are,” says Bannerman.
“So to find your values the most important thing is firstly not to rule anything out or get bogged down into your head, but list everything that resonates with you and you feel is important,” she says.
From there prioritise based on your values and try to apply these to your daily habits.
“Ikigai is equally about what you want to experience in your life as it is about how it contributes to the quality of your life, whether that’s career focused or it’s just simply a hobby that brings small joys to your life.”
Question to ask yourself: What do I love to do, and why is it important to me?
Pillar Two: That which you are good at
When you want to create a meaningful life it’s vital that you base it on your inherent strengths.
“Recognise your inherent strengths, those traits of your personality that make you who you are and which come naturally to you – think leadership abilities, communication skills or even honesty and persistence – and then incorporate these into different areas of your life,” says Bannerman.
In return, expect your levels of confidence and self-worth to increase and your relationships with others to improve.
“When you’re more aware of yourself and more confident within yourself you build better connections with others and gain more satisfaction in all areas of your life,” she says.
Question to ask yourself: What am I good at?
Pillar Three: That which the world needs
Consider the needs of the world on a larger scale and the impact that your actions or inactions can have including what sort of legacy you want to leave behind.
“This way of thinking can inspire you to find ways to act for the greater good,” says Bannerman.
“In turn, the very fact that you may be able to impact someone else’s life can create a sense of competence in your own life and act as a reminder of how easy it is to be kind and generous,” she says.
Furthermore, altruism in general improves how we relate to others.
“It makes us more compassionate, grateful and understanding, and gives us a sense of autonomy and freedom so we’re more determined, all of which culminates towards a larger sense of meaning and purpose in life.”
Question to ask yourself: How can my passion and skills contribute to an area of need in the world?
Pillar Four: That which you can be paid for
Although your ikigai may have nothing to do with money you still need an income to meet your needs, so how about using your passion to do so.
“Once you’ve identified your values and found something that you love and utilised your inherent strengths to help you put good work out into the world, then it can be about turning all that into a paying job that allows you to live comfortably and gives you a sense of contentment,” says Bannerman.
“Overall when you open your heart and mind to what might be possible in your life and trust those little sparks that come up to propel you forward to do what’s important for you, then you’re living the dream and that’s what we’re all here for – total life satisfaction.”
So, by putting your plans into action you stop letting life pass you by. You give yourself permission to live your life in a way that truly matters, to you, and you wake up happy every morning.
What are you waiting for?