Vignettes on Aging – Ikigai

Ikigai is a Japanese word that roughly means sense of purpose. It is the convergence of four areas of life: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. Many think of ikigai as the center of a flower, the center being the core of our lives. It is that thing that holds everything else in place.

Ikigai is that feeling of richness in our lives, that thing that burns bright and keeps us resolute and moving forward regardless of what else is happening in other areas. In addition to genetics, diet, lifestyle, and an excellent health care system, Ikigai may be another reason Japanese citizens continue to lead the world in longest and healthiest life expectancy.

Your ikigai isn’t something you create as much as something that develops within you over time. It could be your work, a hobby, or a craft that you thoroughly enjoy doing. Ikigai can be volunteering for a specific organization or purpose, like a food bank or helping children learn to read.

The main focus of ikigai is the satisfaction it brings to you, whether it benefits someone else or not. Our relationship to that which we characterize as our ikigai changes as we age. Perhaps the aging joints of our hands and knees make gardening more challenging. Dwindling eyesight may impact our ability to do that thing that fills our soul with joy. There are, however, many ways around most obstacles that impact our physical abilities to enjoy ikigai.

Chances are you already know what that thing is that brings you happiness, and you instantly thought about it when you read the first sentence of this post. Or perhaps you’ve never thought about anything that could be characterized as ikigai and whether it exists in your life.

Give it some thought now.

Ikigai can help you find contentment in that it allows you to be more focused. Ikigai helps to identify what’s truly important to our well being and helps keep our minds off the minutiae of an exhausting world. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that our ikigai helps us be more productive and spending time in a more calm and joyful manner.