The Okinawan culture in Japan has a word for finding life's purpose. It's called Ikigai. Here is a step by step guide to finding joy through Ikigai.

Ikigai. The Japanese Art of Finding Life’s Purpose and Never Retiring.

The Japanese culture seems to have a lot of wisdom. Maybe I’m partial because I am a quarter Japanese. The day I learned about Ikigai, my life and perspective were totally transformed. When I say the art of never retiring, people might imagine a life of constantly working yourself to the bone. A depressing life. When in fact, Ikigai promotes the exact opposite.

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The healthiest place in the world

For the last century, there has been a culture that has continuously blown the rest of us away. They have lived longer, healthier and happier lives and a major reason for this is because they never retire.

The people of Okinawa, Japan don’t actually have a formal word for the word retirement.

Before you decide even the idea of never retiring sounds too exhausting, hear me out:

  • Okinawan’s instead spend most of their lives focused around Ikigai; a word translated to mean, “The reason you wake up in the morning.”
  • Rather than living their lives for a job or working just to get paid, they instead focus on their lives and their purpose as a whole.
  • Doing this has added greatly to their health and life expectancy as well as their overall happiness.

Even the eldest Okinawans are usually up with the sun working in their gardens or tending to their homes. Not out of obligation, but out of love and respect for what they have.

The Okinawan culture in Japan has a word for finding life's purpose. It's called Ikigai. Here is a step by step guide to finding joy through Ikigai.
Ikigai. Imagine a life that you don’t want to retire from.

Aren’t they exhausted?

The funny thing is, despite their major working habits, they continue to out-live the rest of us.

In Okinawa, the average life span for men is 84 and for women, it’s 90!

In fact, there are five times more 100-year-olds in Okinawa than there are living in the rest of Japan.

How to never retire 

Now, of course, retirement as we know it is something that most of us will see in our lifetime. At least from our paid jobs. It’s wise to plan, save and be prepared when we inevitably leave our day jobs.

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Okinawan’s is that they don’t see their lives and jobs separately.

It all combines into their Ikigai. The reason they wake up in the morning.

Since the beginning of time, one of man’s greatest questions has been, “What is my purpose?” Well, there is actually a great model to help you get started on finding out. Find your Ikigai so that you can happily never retire by finding joy in your work every day.

The Okinawan culture in Japan has a word for finding life's purpose. It's called Ikigai. Here is a step by step guide to finding joy through Ikigai.
Ikigai chart.

The Outside Circles

What you love

In circle number one, list the things that you love.

Maybe family and friends. But beyond that: art, reading, science, photography, money…what are things that you really love in life.

Things that maybe are different for you than they are for other people.

What you’re good at

In circle number 2, think about those natural talents of yours.

What are you good at?

Write them all down.

Keep in mind that you want to make sure what you’re good at is also something that you love doing.

What you can get paid for

After working your way through the first 2 circles, keep them in mind for the third circle. What you can get paid for.

Are there jobs that you have had in mind? A startup business idea you can’t shake? If so, write it down.

Think of all the different payment possibilities out there and add them to the circle.

What the world needs

This one is probably my favorite circle.

It’s time to look outside yourself. Let go of any ideas of making money, or what you stand to gain from a job, and just ask yourself, “What does the world need?”

We stand to gain so much from helping others. Serotonin levels literally rise when a good deed is done. It’s literally a win/win/win situation when we start thinking of others and putting those thoughts into actions.

The inner circles

The inner circle is where you can really gain some perspective.

It’s where you take the ideas from your big circles and start to break them down to get closer to your Ikigai, the reason you wake up in the morning.

Look at the circles that overlap and see where you find similarities or things that can go hand in hand. Now start to combine them.

Combining your circles

What you love + what you’re good at = your passion

What you’re good at + what you can get paid for = your profession

What you can get paid for + what the world needs = your vocation

What the world needs + what you love = your mission

I’m not a math person, but this is the kind of graph I can really get behind. What a purposeful, well thought out way for people to start getting down to their purpose in life.

A purpose that you don’t ever have to retire from.

When you are fulfilled and joyful, there is no need for retirement. You will want to keep going, your fire will keep burning and you will know why you wake up in the morning.

The Okinawan culture in Japan has a word for finding life's purpose. It's called Ikigai. Here is a step by step guide to finding joy through Ikigai.
Combining all these things, your passion, profession, vocation and mission all combine to give you your Ikigai.

Finding your Ikigai

Combining all these things, your passion, profession, vocation, and mission ultimately combine to give you your Ikigai. Your reason to wake up in the morning. Your entire purpose for living.

So many of us have forgotten about some of the huge benefits that come from good old fashioned hard work.

People spend their whole lives waiting for the day they no longer have to work.

It is my deep belief that we are capable of living our purpose and working every day to fulfill it whether that’s at a job, in the home, or simply how we interact with the world around us.

Lose the idea of retirement, start living on purpose, and you just may find yourself working your way to a longer, more fulfilled life. You might find your Ikigai.

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Okinawa, Japan, Ikigai, life's purpose, reason for waking up in the morning

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  1. This is such a great post, and the concept is so good. SO GOOD! I see people who I know who have retired and struggle with it because they don’t know what to do with their time. But then I see people who have retired from their 9-5, but as you mentioned about your grandma, are lively and out there living life. It really is inspiring!

    1. I’m so glad you like it. I really loved the concept of Ikigai but wasn’t sure quite how to share it.

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