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Want To Live Longer? Discover Your Ikigai

okinawa woman Okinawa is the place with the highest life expectancy on Earth. People there live longer and age better than people in any other part of the world. One of the reasons for this is Ikigai, a concept which is a major part of the way of life of Okinawa for many generations.

The good news is that Ikigai is not a special food or substance that exists only in Okinawa. It is something that each person can find within him or herself no matter where they are. The effects can be tremendous.

Let’s talk about Ikigai, what it means, why it is so good for you and how you can use it to live a longer and better life…

What Is Ikigai

Ikigai is a term which may be loosely translated as the “Reason you get up in the morning“. In essence, it is the driving force of your life, that thing which you do which makes life more meaningful. The Japanese believe that each person has an Ikigai. However, it can be hard work to figure what yours is. You need to do a lot of soul searching in order to find it.

Your Ikigai doesn’t need to be spectacular. It can be rather simple. Caring for your children or grandchildren or great grandchildren can be an excellent Ikigai. Volunteering for a cause you feel passionate about can be an Ikigai and so can be a profession which is a calling and not just a job. In Okinawa you can find people in their 90s who are still actively pursuing their Ikigai, whether it revolves around their family or their work or a hobby.

Why Is Having an Ikigai A good Thing

Ikigai is believed to be one of the reasons why people in Okinawa enjoy a longer lifespan than people anywhere else. In a study done in Japan, people were asked about their Ikigai and were examined after 7 years have elapsed. After those 7 years, the mortality rate among people without an Ikigai was much higher than among people who reported having one. In essence, having a reason to get up in the morning may give you more mornings to get up on.

Having such a powerful sense of purpose may influence aging and longevity in other ways as well. It may lead one to have a more positive view of him or herself as they age. As long as you can still pursue your Ikigai as you age, this sense of purpose should never die or diminish. Such a positive perception of aging may lead to a longer lifespan.

An Ikigai Can Change

You’re not born with one Ikigai only. You can find or develop another in your lifetime. For instance, you may have a work-related Ikigai in your 20’s and later a child-rearing one when you become a parent or some other activity as you grow older.

How To Find Your Ikigai

Most people confuse pleasure with purpose. Just because you enjoy doing something doesn’t make it meaningful to you. In fact, happiness often comes by doing things which are meaningful rather than just plain fun. For instance, caring for a baby can be hard and frustrating work. However, it may also be the greatest source of happiness that you’ve ever known. This is because it has significant meaning to you. This makes all the hard work worthwhile.

An Ikigai should be meaningful. It doesn’t have to be easy or frustration-free. It has to be something that you do because it gives you a sense of purpose. For instance, eating ice-cream may be fun, but it has no purpose besides a momentary enjoyment. Volunteering at a homeless shelter may be heart-breaking and hard, but it can also fill you with a sense of accomplishment.

What you should do if figure out if you have some meaningful activity that fills your life with meaning. Maybe you have one but you’re not giving it enough of your time to allow it to infuse your life with purpose.

I began to think about myself a few days ago and wondering what my Ikigai is. To tell you the truth, I am still not sure. One thing is spending time with my wife, but this doesn’t require any effort from me as it’s pure fun.

Writing this blog may actually be part of what my Ikigai is at the moment. There are moments in which I have nothing to write about and others where I’m struggling to put my thoughts in order. However, it means something to me to give people good advice about health and fitness and to help them improve their life. I find it has purpose for me. Part of making something meaningful is having it cost some effort to accomplish. This blog certainly takes a lot of work, but I enjoy it.

What Is Your Ikigai?

Now that you know how having an Ikigai can help you live a longer and better life, take some time to think about what yours is. Find something meaningful that gives you a sense of purpose. This may be what you should focus on as you get up in the morning and what should be a major part of your life.

So, what is your Ikigai? Let me know in the comments below…

Image credit: gcworld

Date published: December 15, 2011. Last modified: December 15, 2011


  1. Really impressive piece of advice through wonderful style of writing. Honestly, I read this whole article not because of, merely, content but the way you have written. The way you have laid down all that you know about ikaigi. I would love to know about this art.
    Kind Regards,

  2. It is amazing how powerfully beneficial it can be to have a purpose especially when it reaches outside of ourselves. Several years ago the National Geographic magazine published an article on long-lived societies including the Okinawans, specific areas of Greece and Italy, and Seventh-Day Adventists as groups with high numbers of centenarians. One of the commonalities they observed was the Ikigai you mentioned, family, and religion in the sense of how it connected to a deep emotional spiritual level giving the individual a sense of fulfillment and community.

    This concept has helped me to approach each day as an opportunity to help a person in a tangible way. So my goal each day is to help one person. It is amazing the joy you will feel if you reach out to those around you.

    • Hi Richard,

      It seems that having a goal in life is not just good for happiness, but also good for your health. Did you see the lecture on Ted by the man who did the research you were referring to? Very interesting stuff.

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