Ikigai: A Japanese Concept to Improve Work and Life

Ikigai is a Japanese concept to improve work and life

Fast cars, fast food, fast money, fast services, fast living–everyone and everything moves quickly to keep up with life. But with such hurried lifestyles, are people truly living their best lives? Not stopping to smell the roses, or at least slow down to appreciate how the pretty the roses look, often leaves people with a passionless and purposeless existence. But it doesn’t have to be! Consider the Japanese art of passionate and purposeful life: Ikigai. Note: Ikigai is in no way meant to replace a Bold Life–it’s meant to compliment it.

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What is Ikigai?

a venn diagram of Japanese concept to improve work and life
Ikigai is a Japanese concept to improve work and life–essentially, it’s a “chill out” philosophy.

Ikigai is a Japanese term, roughly translated as a reason to get out of bed in the morning, but as a concept, it revolves around striving to find one’s life balance, passion, and purpose. It comes from the words “iki,” meaning life, and “kai,” meaning a result of an action.

Japanese dictionaries define Ikigai as something to live for, the joy and goal of living, and the happiness and benefit of being alive. The philosophy of Ikigai understands the ideas of fast-paced living but improving by incorporating passion and purpose to achieve a fulfilling life.

To find one’s Ikigai and find balance and purpose in life, one should have an intersection among the philosophy’s four key life elements. They are:

  • Passion or what you love
  • Vocation or what you are good at
  • Profession or what you can get paid to do
  • Mission or what the world needs

Once these four elements intersect, then you have successfully found your Ikigai. Although finding your purpose looks daunting at first, there are methods you can do.

The Benefits of Ikigai

Even before its worldwide popularity, many Japanese sociologists and psychologists noted the numerous benefits and truths of Ikigai. Several research studies on this lifestyle concept reached notable conclusions, including how Ikigai helps a person live longer and with more direction. In addition, it also concluded that people who don’t practice Ikigai have a higher mortality risk, especially for cardiovascular diseases and external causes.

Apart from life longevity, Ikigai also contributes to a person’s emotional, social, and mental well-being. In a 2021 Japanese study, researchers found that Ikigai affects people’s willingness for new interactions, which leads to healthier, more successful aging. The presence of passion, balance, and purpose also helps an individual’s work performance, productivity, and creativity.

“Feeling ikigai entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment. Furthermore, it includes awareness of values such as the purpose of life and the meaning of existence; it is future-oriented, as in goal seeking.” – Michiko Kumano, Psychologist, Department of Psychology, Osaka Ohtani University

Finding Your Ikigai

Before anything else, it’s best to understand that Ikigai isn’t a secret or elaborate technique to give your life meaning and purpose. In its simplest terms, Ikigai is anything that gives you joy while motivating you to move forward.

Ken Mogi, a Japanese scientist, and author of the book, Awakening Your Ikigai, identified five principles to help people find their Ikigai.

1.  Start Small

The first principle or pillar of Ikigai is starting small. It has close ties with the Japanese philosophy of kodawari, or commitment. Kodawari focuses on a person’s persistence to achieve perfection in their craft. Although perfection can be unattainable, the aim is to become efficient and innovative.

In Ikigai, starting small is the first step to improvement and progress. Followers of the Ikigai concept believe that moving one step at a time is the best option to achieve excellence. Due to this, they practice diligence, patience, and attention to detail, allowing them to see beauty even in the most trivial things.

2. Release Yourself

The second principle is about accepting yourself as you are. To Mogi, happiness is when you display your true nature and let it shine through. When pursuing your Ikigai, you must be unapologetically you in any way you like.

The core of the Ikigai philosophy is to showcase one’s individuality, sensitivity, and expression in doing what they love and are proficient at while being able to provide for themselves and contribute to the world’s needs at the same time.

3. Live in Harmony and Sustainability

Harmony and sustainability are Ikigai’s third pillar. Pursuing your dreams and desires is essential, but you should consider society and nature’s sustainability. In its essence, Ikigai is a motivational force to help you move forward by giving you the strength to be more productive instead of succumbing to laziness. In addition, it requires you to be in harmony with the environment and the people around you. It’s all about seeing the bigger picture and the goal as a whole.

Achieving harmony can be difficult if you only see your worries and desires. You must see past the power structures and competition to find your Ikigai and live a fulfilling yet bold life.

4. Find Joy in The Small Things

Nowadays, people are too focused on their jobs, and exposure to demanding and uninspiring work environments makes them lose sight of what they should be doing: living. When finding your Ikigai, staying fulfilled outside work by having hobbies or discovering your passion is essential. Finding pleasure and enjoying these small activities gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction, which can fuel your ikigai for days.

5. Be in The Here and Now

The last pillar of Ikigai is a familiar concept in many Eastern philosophies. Mogi believes that the fifth principle is about bringing out your inner child. It teaches you to take the time to stop and cherish every moment as it comes. When you stay focused on the present, you can lead a calmer, more carefree life.

The present moment is where all new adventures and sensations stay, and to explore them, people need to stop spending too much time regretting the past and worrying about the future. This childlike view can be life-changing in ways that a person can learn, play, be free, and indulge in their passions without concerning themselves with routine or money.


Don’t forget the book that lays out the principles of goal-achievement and attaining a Bold Life!

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