Photo: iStock1313289

Ikigai in practice: Leading the life you want


The most popular genre of nonfiction, self-help books have been informal guides on everything for decadesbut did you know the earliest extant forms dated back to Ancient Egypt? Or that the term “self-help” itself was taken from a book touting mid-Victorian era liberalism titled "Self Help" by Samuel Smiles published in 1859?

Japan too has a long and robust self-help industry, with some historical examples being "Hagakure" by Tsunetomo Yamamoto or "The Book of Five Rings" by Musashi Miyamoto. Just from looking around my local bookshops, I noticed about three-quarters of today’s nonfiction sections had some manner of a self-help book or guide in them. Although available in various genres, one of the most popular involves finding your purpose in life—your ikigai.

The concept of ikigai

Having a reason to live seems almost a given in a country with one of the highest elderly populations and longest life expectancies. Ikigai, which comes from iki (生き life) and gai (甲斐 value/worth), is essentially what makes your life fulfilling to you.

Summarized in the broadest of terms, ikigai is:

  • What you love
  • What the world needs
  • What you are good at
  • What you are paid for

All rolled into one concept. Basically, if you wake up in the morning and there’s something in your life you like doing, you find it satisfying to do and you’re good at doing it, you’ve already found your ikigai. It doesn’t have to be a paying job eitherit could be a hobby, an activity, whatever.

If you’d like to learn more about the concept itself, please check out this ikigai article by Lucy Dayman. It’s often touted as a means of helping yourself transition to different stages or changes in your life as well.

Is it doable?

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Great idea. The book they are plugging was one of the worst books I have ever read.

0 ( +4 / -4 )


Stay active and don't retire

Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life

Only eat until you are 80 percent full

Surround yourself with good friends

Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise

Smile and acknowledge people around you

Reconnect with nature

Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.

Live in the moment

Follow your ikigai
2 ( +5 / -3 )

Self help books are a misnomer. They don’t help anyone except the publisher and author. Makes people with self esteem issues feel worse about themselves. Hateful things.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites