Monday Musings 35 – Identify your Ikigai

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Yayati suffered from premature ageing cursed by guru Sukracharya as a punishment to his misdeeds ie excessive sense gratification. Yayati forgot the purpose of his life and indulged in sense gratification and hence suffered premature ageing. Many of us age prematurely because of modern day curses such as stress, depression, worries, dissatisfaction in work, lack of confidence, etc. We were discussing anti-ageing medicines, rather techniques for the past two weeks.

First medicine is ‘Living for a purpose’, doing what your passion directs.

What an Idea, Ikigai?

Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.” When combined, ikigai means ‘living worthy life’ which is almost the same as the French term “raison d’etre” or “reason for being.”

The concept of ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. This medical tradition holds that physical wellbeing is affected by one’s mental–emotional health and sense of purpose in life.

Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano says that ikigai is a state of wellbeing that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys, which also brings a sense of fulfilment.

To state it simply, Ikigai is “a reason to get up in the morning” or, more poetically, “waking up to joy.” You need to find a reason to wake up in the morning every day.

You would have often heard  ‘How are you doing?’ The question is just for courtesy and the intent is not to hear a long laundry list of issues. Have you heard people commenting “ஏதோ இருக்கிறேன்” meaning “pulling on in life”. Your quip might dampen the enthusiasm of the seeker who otherwise would have had a purpose for his/her day. Try saying “On top of the world” and you would feel the difference yourself.

Focusing on your Flow

Ikigai is related to the concept of flow, as described in the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Psychological Flow captures the positive mental state of being completely absorbed, focused, and involved in your activities at a certain point in time, as well as deriving enjoyment from being engaged in that activity. Flow is colloquially referred as ‘in the zone’,

Athletes reach performance levels beyond their limits when they are in a state of flow. Being in a positive state of mind, being focused and also being cheered positively by the supporters in a competition can produce unbelievable results because the performer goes to the state of Flow.

Flow can be said to occur when you are consistently doing something you love and that you are good at, with the possible added benefit of bringing value to others’ lives. In such a case, flow might be seen as in tune with your ikigai, or activities that give your life meaning and purpose.

ikigai has usually been cited as both a personal pursuit and one of benefit to others. In the end, ikigai brings meaning, purpose, and fulfilment to your life, while also contributing to the good of others.

Why is it that some are able to get the flow while others are ‘puling on’ in their life. Everyone has an ikigai – intersection of passion, talent, paid, and potential to benefit others. Some found their ikigai and the others had not made any effort to find their ikigai.  The journey to ikigai might require time, deep self-reflection, and effort, but it is one we can all make, and we should make.

The concept of ikigai as a purpose in life with both personal and social dimensions is captured by the well-known ikigai diagram. This diagram includes overlapping spheres covering:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for

Ikigai is that which you love, you are good at it, which the society needs and the added joy if you are getting benefited from it.

Have you made your New Year resolutions? Review if your new year resolutions are aligned to your ikigai. If not, you can still update your new year resolutions. Whatever be your resolutions, remember to be committed to your resolutions.

I wake up on a Sunday morning to the joy of preparing for a ‘Monday Musings’ episode. Hope you wake up to the joy of reading a Monday Musings!


Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.



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