I came across this viral Tiktok about the Japanese concept of ikigai, and knew I had to share where this concept came from, what it means, and why it makes sense for living your best life.
Unless you’re like Buddha, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish to be happy.
After all, when it comes to figuring out what you’re supposed to do with your life, who hasn’t heard the advice, “Just do what makes you happy” or “I just want you to be happy”?
But here’s the problem with chasing happiness.
Happiness is a fleeting emotion that’s largely driven by the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine levels spike when you give your nervous system shiny new experiences—a new job, new relationship, a new car, or even a vacation from your everyday life.
The novelty of a new experience wears off pretty quickly. When the feeling of happiness dissolves, pretty soon you’re back at it, chasing the next shiny, new thing. Chasing happiness can be like a rollercoaster of momentary high points, followed by low periods of emptiness, unfulfillment, and disappointment.
If you’re using the feeling of happiness as a marker of success in life, you’re likely to feel disappointed.
Life can be gritty. It can be boring. And certainly, life can make you feel burnt out.
But what if you let go of your pursuit of happiness?
Maybe the Japanese concept of ikigai is a better, more fulfilling solution—one that doesn’t just scratch your itch for happiness but nurtures your soul and brings meaning and purpose to every aspect of your life.
Think about ikigai as your purpose in life. It’s like the French concept raison d’etre or your reason for being.
In contrast to surface-level happiness, your ikigai is grounded in people, work, and experiences that create value and add deep-seated joy to your life.
According to the authors of the popular book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, your ikigai lives at the crossroads of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. When you weave these four areas together, your ikigai brings together your passion, your mission, your profession, and your vocation.
When it comes to living your best life, the “ikigai way” is more soulful and intentional, especially compared to a life where you’re chasing happiness.
Ikigai invites you to dive deep into creating a life well lived, which, as it turns out, is a soul-level psychological desire.
Here are eight ideas that will help you start living your ikigai:
- Discover your values. What do you hold precious and dear?
- Turn your talents into your strengths. This can be done through practice.
- Find your flow. What creative activities bring you a sense of timelessness? Do more of that.
- Practice gratitude. Find something to be grateful for every day.
- Exercise and stay active. This is for your body, mind, and spirit.
- Connect with your friends. Yes, I mean IRL.
- Get into the sunshine. Spend time in nature.
- Drink more crystal clear water. Purified water is always best.
BTW, living from your ikigai doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you. We can’t always predict or control the challenges that we will face. But with ikigai, you’ll find that your perspective will quickly shift from “why is this happening to me?” to a more empowered perspective like, “how is this happening for me?”
You’ll probably be able to bounce back more quickly from setbacks and discover an inner strength that you didn’t know you had.
Living a life of ikigai is about more than just chasing happiness. It’s about creating meaning, purpose, and soul-deep satisfaction in all areas of your life. Surprisingly, focusing on this will bring you more joy and fulfillment than striving to live happily ever after ever could.
So, now over to you. Are you ready to stop chasing happiness and start living your ikigai?
If you are, get ready because your life is about to get a whole lot more fulfilling.
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