Ikigai – Or why I wake up in the morning


Some time ago I did an update with just this Ikigai diagram and now I can see that it has over 100 likes and over 80 shares so I was inspired to write about it again.

“Sometimes when you lose your way, you find YOURSELF.”

―   Mandy Hale,   The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

The Japanese word “ikigai” usually refers to the source of value in one’s life or the things that one feels makes one’s life worthwhile.In other words, it is your reason for being. The word is also used to refer to the mental and spiritual reasons why individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not necessarily linked to your economic status or your life today. Even if a person feels that today is not the best day, but if the person has a goal, he can feel ikigai. Behaviour that makes one feel ikigai are not actions which individuals are forced to take – these are natural and spontaneous actions.

This beautiful little story on Ikigai perhaps exemplifies the search for the inner self.

A Story to explain Ikigai

In a small village outside of Osaka, a woman in a coma was dying. She suddenly had a feeling that she was taken up to heaven and stood before the Voice of her ancestors.

“Who are you?” the Voice said to her.

“I am the wife of the mayor,” she replied. “I did not ask whose wife you are but who you are.” “I am the mother of four children.” “I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.” “I am a school teacher.” “I did not ask what your profession is but who you are.”

And so it went. No matter what she replied, she did not seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”

“I am a Shinto.” “I did not ask what your religion is but who you are.” “I am the one who wakes up each day to care for my family, and nurture the young minds of the children at my school.”

She passed the examination, and was sent back to earth. The next morning she woke at sunrise, feeling a deep sense of meaning and purpose. She tended to her children’s lunches, and planned fun lessons for her students that day. The woman had discovered her ikigai.

So really it is an inside view of yourself. It is your inner self and reason for being.

Let me go back to the Venn Diagram that in a sense forms a beautiful compass for Ikigai.

Ikigai the compass to find your own inner North Star

In the TED talk titled “How to live to be 100+” by Dan Buttoner , National Geographic writer and explorer talks about Ikigai.

His longevity research took him to the northern island of Okinawa, Japan where five times as many people pass the hundred year mark as they do in the United States.

Buettner is supposed to have asked the Okinawan centenarians why they woke up in the morning. Each one I believe knew the answer instantly. Even if it is something simple like waking up every morning just to be with your grand, grand, grandchild.

I think the Venn diagram is a beautiful way to figure out your reason for being or your raison d’être.

Good luck trying to find your own Ikigai.

Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.

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