Ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy) is a concept originating from the Japanese island of Okinawa, home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. So, could finding our ikigai – our reason for being – lead to happiness and longevity in life? Arlo Laibowitz explores this interesting idea...


Why do we get up in the morning?, What is the meaning of life? Why don’t we commit suicide? These are all questions that we think about or need to answer at some point in our lives, either professionally or personally.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai answers these questions, by finding our reason for being. So, what exactly is Ikigai, and how can we use its lessons to find meaning and happiness in our lives?

Ikigai, according to one definition, is our “raison d’être”, or the happiness of always being busy, both in our professional life and everyday life. It's the passion and talent we have that gives meaning to our days and drives us to share the best of ourselves with the world.

Ikigai is an attitude towards life, a way of finding our optimal activities in life, and a set of characteristics that can create meaning and happiness in life.

Ikigai helps you find your reason for being, and therefore, passion and meaning 


When we look for our professional ikigai, we can ask ourselves four questions:

  1. What do we love?
  2. What are we good at?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can you be paid for?


Ikigai is found at the intersection of these four questions, where passion, mission, vocation, and profession meet.


To determine our ikigai, we can try to:

  • Find a purpose we strongly believe in.
  • Stop thinking and start doing.
  • Speak to people who have similar passions.
  • And, accept that setbacks are normal.

What is.. Ikigai? - happiness.org

Ikagi at work: Knowing what you love and what you're good at can help you make better career options


The characteristic of everyday ikigai are:

  • Finding flow in everything we do, and remaining active.
  • Taking it slow, and not worrying.
  • Cultivating good habits, including good nutrition.
  • Nurturing good friendships.
  • Living an unhurried life, and exercising daily.
  • Being optimistic and smiling a lot.
  • Reconnecting with nature.
  • Giving thanks, and having resilience.
  • Cherishing "wabi-sabi", or the imperfection of life.
  • And, living by "ichi-go, ichi-e": the knowledge that this moment exists only now, and won’t come again.


By finding our professional ikigai, and living according to its characteristics in our day-to-day, we can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, people live among the longest in the world. Their secret: following their ikigai, and thereby constantly maintaining their happiness. 



Written by Arlo Laibowitz

arlo.jpgArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.



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