Here's Why Finding Your 'Ikigai' Is The Ultimate Self-Care Activity

It's all about finding your purpose.

woman sleeping bed
Image via iStock

It’s no secret that the self-care movement has been huge in recent years. The desire to take better care of our mental wellbeing has changed everything from what we eat to how we exercise and even what we put on our faces. But let’s be honest—no amount of face masks, hot baths or mindfulness meditation sessions are going to help if we absolutely hate what we do for a living. We spend roughly a third of lives working, so if your job makes you miserable, there’s a good chance you’re not living your best life. That’s why we’re calling it—the Japanese concept of finding your ‘ikigai’ is the self-care activity that trumps all of the others.

What is an Ikigai?

It may be pronounced ‘ik-ee-guy’, but unsurprisingly, this isn’t about finding an Icky Guy and making him your life partner (much better to find a nice one!). No, your Ikigai relates to your purpose in life or ‘reason for being.’ Essentially, it’s the thing that makes you jump out of bed in the morning. The concept originated on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which happens to have the world’s highest amount of centenarians per capita. Translation: people in Okinawa live longer than anywhere else in the world. So, you know they know what they’re talking about.
The concept is still extremely relevant in Japan, where hard work is deeply ingrained in their culture. The people there work very long hours, so they figure: why not spend it doing something they love, that they’re good at and that makes a difference in the world? Ideally, your Ikigai is something:

  • You’re good at
  • That you love
  • That you can be paid for
  • That the world needs

How to find your Ikigai

According to the concept of Ikigai, that sweet spot in the middle that combines all of those things is where you’re going to feel happiest and the most fulfilled. Now, you may be thinking that finding such a thing is impossible. But let me tell you, it’s not—because I’ve found mine. Writing is all I’ve ever want to do (and let’s be honest—one of only a few things I’m good at), I get paid for it and I like to think that it’s making a difference by entertaining and informing people. And while some days I have creative blocks or just want to stay under my doona—yes, it makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning.
But even if your Ikigai isn’t immediately obvious to you, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to an eternity of being unfulfilled. It may just require a little more soul searching! A great place to start is asking yourself: what would I do even if it wasn’t being paid for it? Once you determine that, the other aspects are pretty easy to figure out. You can always upskill or start at the bottom to work in a field you love, but your passion is something you just can’t fake.
You can learn more about finding your Ikigai in the book Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day 

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