Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a small word with a profound meaning.
Translated from Japanese, ikigai means “reason to live.”
It is often associated with the prefecture of Okinawa, which boasts the longest-living people on Earth.
We will look more closely at this fascinating concept, with particular emphasis on inspiring ikigai quotes related to acceptance and living in the moment, nature and beauty, health and longevity, movement, happiness, purpose, and passion.
Tools aimed at helping you find your ikigai are also included. So, let’s get started–your ikigai is just waiting to be discovered.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our free Ikigai Exercise. This detailed and beautifully designed printable worksheet will walk you or your clients through the process of finding Ikigai.
This Article Contains:
- What Is Ikigai and How Does It Work?
- Acceptance & Living in the Moment Quotes
- Nature & Beauty Ikigai Quotes
- Health & Longevity
- Movement and Flow in Ikigai
- Happiness Quotes
- Community & Family
- Quotes on Purpose, Meaning, & Passion
- Our 2 Favorite Tools to Find Your Ikigai
- A Take-Home Message
What Is Ikigai and How Does It Work?
Ikigai originates from an unlikely place. The island of Okinawa was, after all, a place of extreme suffering during World War II, with over 200,000 casualties (García & Miralles, 2017). The Battle of Okinawa was the most devastating land battle of the Pacific war (Tzeng, 2000).
Somehow, many decades later, the location of this bloodbath has become known for something far better. Namely, as of the time of writing, there were more people over the age of 100 in Okinawa than in any other place on Earth (García & Miralles, 2017). Not only do Okinawans live incredibly long and healthy lives, but their lives are replete with happiness, serenity, camaraderie, and plenty of activity.
It turns out that the inhabitants of Okinawa are doing all the right things to support a long and meaningful life. In other words, they have found their ikigai. They understand the value of kindness, community, and living in the moment.
Plus, they live healthy lifestyles, with light eating and plenty of exercise and rest (García & Miralles, 2017). Of course, living on a beautiful island with a subtropical climate doesn’t hurt. Nonetheless, even without the climate, the rest of us may emulate the Okinawans’ zest for life. The following quotes and summaries will set us on the right path for finding our ikigai.
Acceptance & Living in the Moment Quotes
There is no future, no past. There is only the present.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 55
The moment. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future. Today is all you have. Make the most of it. Make it worth remembering.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 185
Ikigai [can be defined as the] ‘feeling of being alive now and/or individual motivationfor living.’
Hasegawa et al., 2003
We don’t create our feelings; they simply come to us, and we have to accept them. The trick is welcoming them.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 47
A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much about the future.
Einstein, 1896/1987, p. 15
We see here that living in the moment is an essential aspect of finding one’s ikigai. This is consistent with a mindfulness approach, which focuses on “nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience” (Hofmann et al. 2010, p. 169).
Along these lines, an ikigai perspective is consistent with one of accepting what is. In this way, happiness and contentment are greatly enhanced because rather than dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, or fighting against what cannot be changed, there is an open-minded acceptance of the present moment.
Nature & Beauty Ikigai Quotes
If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.
In a nutshell, Wabi Sabi is imperfection, or more fully, appreciation of the value and beauty of imperfection. Wabi Sabi celebrates the preciousness of all things imperfect, which is truly all things.
Gold, 2010, p. 16
Only things that are imperfect, incomplete, and ephemeral can truly be beautiful, because only those things resemble the natural world.
García & Miralles, 2017, pp. 108–109
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society where none intrudes, By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
Byron, 1841, p. 146
While it’s true that the Okinawans are fortunate to live in an exquisite place, this is not the only reason for their ability to appreciate nature and beauty. Rather, this is also a product of perspective.
Finding one’s ikigai means that a person can see the beauty in many things. They can appreciate that which is imperfect and even “broken.” This way of thinking is consistent with an appreciation for nature, as nature is inherently imperfect.
While someone lacking in ikigai may try to “fix” such an item (e.g., a curved tree or a chipped tooth), one who has found their ikigai may instead appreciate and accept the beauty of its imperfection (i.e., “wabi-sabi”).
Health & Longevity
Hara hachi bu is a common Japanese saying repeated before or after eating and roughly translates to “Fill your belly to 80%.”
If a man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.
True silence is the rest of the mind; and is to the spirit, what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.
Just possibly, ikigai makes a Peter Pan of all of us. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Let us all be twelve years old! Youthfulness of mind is important in ikigai, but so is commitment and passion, however seemingly insignificant your goal.
Mogi, 2018, p. 63
There are several good indications that ikigai is related to health and longevity. First, the Okinawans who live by this philosophy are typically thin. Eating the ikigai way means only filling your stomach to 80% (i.e., “hara hachi bu”).
Doing so boosts a person’s metabolism and leads to a lower body mass, which is associated with a longer lifespan in humans (Marchionni et al., 2020).
Living consistently with ikigai also involves a lot of activity, along with the knowledge that too much sedentary behavior slows metabolism.
Importantly, such activity is balanced by plenty of sleep, which boosts the immune system and enhances various aspects of health (e.g., emotional, cardiovascular, metabolic, digestive, etc.). Therefore, Okinawans who live by ikigai are lean, healthy, well rested, and – even those in their 90s – hard to keep up with.
Movement and Flow in Ikigai
Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.
Keep going; don’t change your path.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 182
Whatever you do, don’t retire!
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 10
As soon as you take these first small steps, your anxiety will disappear and you will achieve a pleasant flow in the activity you’re doing.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 63
The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 86
Can someone really retire if he is passionate about what he does?
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 79
You will never see an ikigai centenarian while away the hours in a rocking chair. Instead, they take advantage of fresh air and sunshine by engaging in outdoor activities like gardening, yoga, dancing, tai chi, and walking.
Retirement simply isn’t part of their vocabulary because they love what they do. And, unlike a person sweating away in a gym, ikigai exercise is in harmony with nature. Because of this, those who live an ikigai lifestyle can experience a consistent state of flow (i.e., complete absorption in an activity that is both spontaneous and effortless; Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014).
A state of flow involves happy absorption in what one is doing, and this is another reason why finding one’s ikigai is related to enhanced happiness.
If you can make the process of making the effort your primary source of happiness, then you have succeeded in the most important challenge of your life.
Mogi, 2018, p. 107
Savor this moment as if it were your last breath. You can live only one day at a time, and no one can be certain that they will wake up the next morning. So let’s not postpone happiness. The best moment in your life is always this one.
García & Miralles, 2019, p. 60
Ikigai translated into English as ‘life purpose’ sounds quite formidable, but ikigai need not be the one overriding purpose of a person’s life. In fact, the word ‘life’ used here aligns more with seikatsu – daily life. In other words, ikigai can be about the joy a person finds living day-to-day, without which their life as a whole would not be a happy one.
Mitsuhashi, 2018, p. 4
Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
Addison, as cited in Gulla, 2018, p. 86
Ikigai is the action we take in pursuit of happiness.
Such happiness is the outcome of valuing purpose, flow, movement, meaning, health, and community.
Since they also embrace acceptance and living in the moment, those who’ve found their ikigai neither harbor resentment nor dwell in the past. Instead, they celebrate each day, are grateful for beauty and nature, and live in a way that supports a strong sense of community, friendship, and family. These are the secrets behind the joy emanating from the ikigai-embracing people of Okinawa.
Community & Family
Okinawans live by the principle of ichariba chode, a local expression that means ‘treat everyone like a brother, even if you’ve never met them before.’ It turns out that one of the secrets to happiness of Ogimi’s residents is feeling like part of a community.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 4
A man is like a forest; individual and yet connected and dependent on others for growth.
Mogi, 2018, p. 121
Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 183
There is no doubt that those who live by ikigai principles cherish community. Indeed, as noted above by García and Miralles (2017, p. 4), there is a local expression among Okinawans, meaning to “treat everyone like a brother, even if you’ve never met them before.”
Along these lines, ikigai means loving your neighbor and serving your community. Loneliness is not an issue among those who follow ikigai because they don’t isolate themselves. Rather, as they go about their active, meaningful pursuits, they do so while surrounded by good friends and family.
Quotes on Purpose, Meaning, & Passion
The purpose of life is a life of purpose.
Above all, he has to find his purpose, his reason for getting out of bed – his ikigai.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 41
What is the one thing you’d like to change the most in the world? − Currently, what is it that makes you very happy and joyful in life? − What makes you wake up in the morning and go through your day?
Daron, 2018, p. 23
Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning. When we spend our days feeling connected to what is meaningful to us, we live more fully; when we lose the connection, we feel despair.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 182
Once you discover your ikigai, pursuing it and nurturing it every day will bring meaning to your life.
García & Miralles, 2017, p. 182
Ikigai gives your life a purpose while giving you the grit to carry on.
Mogi, 2018, p. 13
While there are several key aspects of an ikigai philosophy, there is one that stands out the most: purpose.
García and Miralles (2017, p 41) note that a person needs to “find his purpose, his reason for getting out of bed, his ikigai.” Imagine waking up each day with a sense of meaning, joy, and purpose. It would make the day far more beautiful and inspire purposeful activity.
Going back to the concept of flow, ikigai followers find happiness in keeping busy. But this ‘busy-ness’ differs from how many other cultures interpret the term. It does not involve jumping at the sound of the alarm clock or running from meetings to appointments.
It is instead a combination of unhurriedness and purposefulness, which might involve activities like helping others, walking with a friend, learning something new, or dancing. Since ikigai is translated as “reason to live,” purpose represents the foundation of living the ikigai way.
The secret to finding your purpose – Renee Amberg
Our 2 Favorite Tools to Find Your Ikigai
PositivePsychology.com has terrific tools to help you find your ikigai. Here are two examples:
Identifying Your Ikigai
Aspect 1: Childhood
Part of finding one’s ikigai is reflecting on one’s early years. In this step, individuals are asked to recall times when they experienced strong positive emotions as a child, as well as memories that affect them to this day.
Aspect 2: Over your lifetime
After exploring their earliest years, individuals engage in a reflective process in which they sift through memories for further clues about their ikigai. The questions are:
- What have been the most significant events in your life since your childhood?
- What have been the greatest changes (inside and outside your control)?
- When were your emotions most affected?
Aspect 3: Present
Here, individuals consider what brings them joy and energy in their current day-to-day life. The prompts include:
- What brings you happiness daily (is it something you do, or something that happens to you)?
- What makes you smile and feel joy when you think of it?
- When do you feel most fulfilled?
Aspect 4: The greatest joy
For this step, individuals inspect what moves them, excites them, and sparks their curiosity. Here are a few example prompts:
- What and when do you feel most moved?
- What do you do that never leaves you feeling bored?
- When do you experience your greatest curiosity?
Aspect 5: Change
Next, individuals are asked to reflect on what they would like to change about their lives.
Aspect 6: Finding your passions
Finally, the exercise encourages individuals to look for further clues to their ikigai that might lie in their passions. A sample of the questions are:
- What is it you do without being asked?
- What would you continue to do, even if the rest of the world failed to understand why?
- What makes you feel most alive and want to stay alive?
Once they have completed an exploration of their past and present for clues, individuals can use this eye-opening activity to find common themes and patterns that they have identified. With a better idea of where their ikigai lies, individuals can more easily find ways to reflect those patterns in their current lives.
A Reflection on Opposites
The goal of this exercise is to help individuals recognize that ikigai is unique to each person. Additionally, it enables people to understand if their actions are focused on the present, their relationship with others, and their feelings, and whether they approach life with a fixed or growth mindset.
Individuals are first instructed to reflect on a series of opposite activities that engender more or less ikigai. They are asked to pay particular attention to how they could move things from one column (less ikigai) to the other (more ikigai) by making subtle changes.
An example is shown below:
|Reflection||More ikigai (activities)||Less ikigai (activities)|
|Do you approach life with a fluid or
a fixed mindset?
I spend time getting to know people from different backgrounds and cultures.
I prefer to spend time with only those people I already know.
The next step in the exercise is to consider how the individual might live more in the center column.
This simple exercise is a powerful way to promote a growth mindset while focusing one’s life more outwardly.
A Take-Home Message
It may seem perplexing that some areas of the world are home to the oldest living people (i.e., blue zones), but this phenomenon is actually not all that mysterious. Particularly in places like Okinawa, Japan.
As we see among elderly Okinawans, living in the spirit of ikigai means living a life that embraces movement, acceptance, mindfulness, health, community, and purpose, with longevity representing an outcome of these qualities.
Fortunately, since we know the reasons underlying ikigai, each of us has the potential to find our ikigai. And, even if you aren’t sure of your life’s purpose, don’t despair. Your purpose is out there. It is up to you to take action while remembering:
“We don’t create the meaning of our life, we discover it!”
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our free ‘Finding Your Ikigai’ Exercise.
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