35 Ikigai Quotes That Will Inspire You and Make You Reflect

Ikigai Quotes‘Ikigai’ (ee-key-guy) is a small word with a profound meaning.

Translated from Japanese, ‘ikigai’ means reason to live.

It is primarily associated with the town 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 read on, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

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 (Garcia & Miralles, 2017). The Battle of Okinawa was the most devastating land battle of the Pacific war (Tzeng, 2000).

Yet, somehow, many decades later, the location of this bloodbath has become known for something else far better. Namely, in today’s Okinawa, there are more people over the age of 100 than in any other place on Earth (Garcia & 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.

How do they do this? They live their lives based on ikigai principles, which comprise “an intersection between 4 distinct elements: what you’re passionate about, where your skills lie, how you can earn a living and what the world needs” (Blinkist).

It turns out that the inhabitants of Okinawa are doing all of 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 (Garcia & 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

Cherry BlossomsThere is no future, no past. There is only the present.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

The moment. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future. Today is all you have. Make the most of it. Make it worth remembering.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Ikigai can be defined as ‘a sense of being alive now, an individual’s consciousness as a motive to live.’

Aikihiro Hasegawa

We don’t create our feelings; they simply come to us, and we have to accept them. The trick is, to welcome them.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

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, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010, p. 169).

Along these lines, an ikigai perspective is consistent with one of acceptance of 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.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

In Japanese culture, there’s a belief that only imperfect objects, like a cracked teacup, can truly be beautiful. This is called wabi-sabi. Try to let go of the quest for perfection, and instead accept the beauty that lies in all of life’s imperfections. The result will be extra energy, less stress and a longer life.

Blinkist

Only things that are imperfect, incomplete, and ephemeral can truly be beautiful, because only those things resemble the natural world.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in 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.

Lord Byron

While it’s true that the Okinawans are fortunate to live in an exquisite place, this is not the reason for their ability to appreciate nature and beauty. Rather, this is entirely 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

Ikigai healthy eatingHara 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.

Japanese Proverb

True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.

William Penn

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.

Ken Mogi

There are several good indications that ikigai is related to health and longevity. First, the Okinawans who live by this philosophy are typically thin. As noted in the first quote, part of an ikigai lifestyle is to never stuff oneself until it becomes hard to move. Rather, 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, Sell, & Lorenzini, 2020).

Along with light eating, an ikigai diet is primarily based on vegetables and tofu, and includes plenty of green tea. Plus, you won’t see ikigai followers eating sugary or processed foods. 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.

Japanese Proverb

Keep going; don’t change your path.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Whatever you do, don’t retire!

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

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.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

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.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Can someone really retire if he is passionate about what he does?

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

You will never see an ikigai centenarian while the hours away 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.

 

Happiness Quotes

Ikigai Happiness QuotesIf 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.

Ken Mogi

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.

Garcia and 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 aligns more with 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.

Akihiro Hasegawa

In Okinawa being happy every day is ikigai.

Okinawan resident

Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

Joseph Addison

Ikigai is the action we take in pursuit of happiness.

Yukari Mitsuhashi

As Okinawan residents know, “In Okinawa being happy every day is ikigai.” 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

Find your own ikigai by asking yourself how you want to serve your community. If you are undecided, remember your dreams from when you were younger, maybe in your youth.

Tsutomu Hotta

Young people often say, ‘My life has no ikigai.’ This is obvious. People who isolate themselves can’t have ikigai – meaning or purpose. Meaning and purpose is only found in interpersonal relationships.

Tatsuzō Ishikawa

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.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

A man is like a forest; individual and yet connected and dependent on others for growth.

Ken Mogi

Seeing and being surrounded by my children and grandchildren is my ikigai.

Okinawan resident

There is no doubt that those who live by ikigai principles cherish community. Indeed, as noted above by Puigcerver, 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.

Robert Byrne

Above all, he has to find his purpose, his reason for getting out of bed, his ikigai.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

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?

Alan Daron

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.

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Once you discover your ikigai, pursuing it and nurturing it every day will bring meaning to your life.

Francesc Miralles

Ikigai gives your life a purpose while giving you the grit to carry on.

Ken Mogi (2018, p. 13)

While there are several key aspects of an ikigai philosophy, there is one that stands out the most: PURPOSE.

Puigcerver notes 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 and 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.

 

Our 2 Favorite Tools to Find Your Ikigai

PositivePsychology.com has terrific tools to help you find your ikigai. Here are two examples:

 

Finding Your Ikigai

The purpose of this tool is to help individuals discover their passions and talents and embrace a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life. To do so, they follow these five steps:

Step 1: Understand what ikigai means.

Of course, to find one’s ikigai, it is essential to understand its meaning. In this step, individuals are provided with a definition of ikigai, along with a useful figure showing the concept’s key ingredients and where they converge.

ikigai

 

 

As the figure illustrates, ikigai comprises the overlap between that which we love, that which we are good at, that which the world needs, and that for which we may be paid.

Step 2: Fill in your ikigai chart.

Once the concept of ikigai is understood, individuals engage in a reflective process in which they answer five questions. They then add responses to an ikigai chart that is provided with the worksheet (along with a list of self-reflective prompts). The questions are:

  1. What do you love?
    For example: What do you feel passionate about? (e.g., making the world healthier for my grandchildren)

  2. What are you good at?
    For example: What would you be doing if you were not in your current job? (e.g., a grade-school teacher)

  3. What can you get paid for?
    For example: Which jobs, positions, or tasks spark your interest? (e.g., personal trainers and life coaches)

  4. What does the world need?
    For example: What are 3 skills you have that are in high demand? (e.g., storytelling and inspiring others)

Step 3: Find overlapping responses.

Here, individuals look for overlap between the above responses, which enables them to discover their mission, vocation, profession, and passion. This is illustrated in the example below, which shows overlaps between these four areas.

Finding Your Ikigai-Figure 2

Step 4: Find the missing circle(s) of your ikigai.

For this step, individuals inspect their ikigai graph and determine circles in which responses are missing or in which multiple responses appear in one circle (see example below):

 

Activity/Theme Appears in these circles What is missing?
e.g., Drawing ✔ What I love
✔ What I’m good at
✔ What can I get paid for?
✔ What does the world need?

 

Step 5: Address the missing circle(s).

The final step of this activity involves having individuals consider circles with missing responses. It is aided by the following prompts:

  • I do not love this activity/theme.
    If you’ve found a lack of passion for a particular activity/theme, it is important to examine why and ultimately to find something you do love. Individuals are guided by various questions such as What aspects of this activity do you dislike? What skills have you developed by doing this activity?

  • I am not good at this.
    Following this prompt, individuals examine and learn how to enhance their skills associated with a specific activity. They are guided by questions such as Why do you think you are not good at this activity?

  • I do not make any money with this activity.
    For this prompt, individuals consider creative ways to make a living by doing an activity they love. They are guided by questions such as How have other people earned money from this activity or related activities?

  • This is not what the world needs.
    Finally, this prompt involves thinking about connecting what you love to do with something that benefits society. Individuals are guided by questions such as How might this activity contribute positively to those around you?

Once completed, this eye-opening activity supports individuals in exploring their passions, talents, and priorities and, in doing so, discovering their ikigai.

 

Doors Closed Doors Open

The goal of this exercise is to help individuals recognize that a negative event often leaves room for the beginning of something positive. Additionally, the exercise enables people to develop insight into that which is blocking them from an optimistic outlook when doors close.

Individuals are first instructed to consider a time when a door closed (e.g., a lost job, the end of a relationship, etc.). They are then asked to consider and write what happened after each event, such as which doors opened and what their lives might have been like had the doors not closed.

The next step in the exercise is to reflect upon their experiences by responding to a series of 12 questions such as What led to the door closing? What helped you open the new door?

Lastly, individuals are asked to indicate those who helped them to open doors in the past, how this was done, and what they might do to help others.

This simple exercise is a powerful way to promote optimism by seeing the good that often follows a closed door.

 

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 with 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 the 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 three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 350 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

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About the Author

Heather Lonczak holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with a focus on Positive Youth Development. She has published numerous articles aimed at reducing health disparities and promoting positive psychosocial youth outcomes (e.g., academic achievement, cultural identity, mindfulness and belief in the future). Heather is also a children’s book author whose publications primarily center around the enhancement of child resilience, as well as empathy and compassion for wildlife.

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