Ikigai – the Japanese “reason for being”

Every person has their own pace of life and each of us decides for themselves just how much work is enough work. There are some that prefer leisure to hard work, and there are others who prefer the opposite, but this article is for those of you who have always been struggling with finding the perfect work-life balance.

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept of finding joy and satisfaction in everything you do and everything that surrounds you. The literal translation of “ikigai” is “a reason for being”. Some say it is very similar to the Danish “hygge” or the Swedish “lagom”, and while there might be something in common between those terms, the Japanese ikigai is a whole wide concept and not simply a term describing a moment or a feeling.

The concept behind ikigai is to find the balance between your passion, your mission, your profession and your calling by introducing small but important changes to your daily life. Ikigai, however, shouldn’t be pursued as an aim. It should rather be viewed as a place in the distance, which you may reach by altering the way you do things. Here are some of the most important principles of ikigai and finding the perfect work-life balance.

1. Begin with small changes

What this means is to make small changes in your life that will gradually make it better. You can start with getting up earlier in the morning, sparing an hour a day for physical activity or an interesting hobby, preparing and consuming more healthy food, etc.

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2. Free yourself

To better understand this principle, you can imagine children. A child is free from society’s expectations, it does not need to chase a profession or a social status, and because of this, everything a child does is pure and untainted. Likewise, you should free yourself from the fear of what people might say and just keep doing what you love, regardless.

3. Find harmony and stability

reason for beingIkigai in Japanese culture is directly related to living in harmony with your environment, the people around you and society as a whole, without which there can be no stability. In other words, personal desires can be fulfilled by understanding and accepting the state of society and environment you live in.

4. Enjoy the little things in life

In Japan people usually have a cup of green tea with something sweet for breakfast. The idea is that they start their day with their favorite things. You can adopt this habit as well – reward yourself for waking up with something that brings you happiness for happiness can be found everywhere around us. It can be a yummy breakfast, a sunny day, a compliment for a job well-done or just spending time with your loved ones – whatever it is, make sure to bear it in mind and be conscious of it.

5. Live in the moment

This means to be devoted to what you`re doing every single minute. You can find just as much joy in your job as in sunbathing on the beach if you simply learn how to enjoy it. Even if your workplace isn`t the perfect one, try to be conscious about how the things you do there are helpful in many ways. Find the balance between doing what you love and doing what you`re good at and you will easily begin to live in the moment (even at work)!

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A final word

It is important to understand that there is no universal or optimal path to ikigai. Everybody must forge their own way, deciding just how much change their life needs. The formula of the ideal work-life balance includes the right amounts of doing what we love, doing what we are good at, and doing what we can help the world with. Why not choose today and start with the simple changes?