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Article: Finding the meaning of life with Ikigai?

ikigai Buch auf einem Zen Tisch mit Kerzen

Finding the meaning of life with Ikigai?

The Ikigai philosophy or method promises to find the meaning of one's life in a simple way. But is that really what lies behind the Japanese concept, or is it actually about something completely different? You can find out what Ikigai can do – and what it can’t do – here.

Ikigai – what is it actually?

The word “Ikigai” comes from Japanese and loosely translates to “meaning in life ” or “ the feeling of having something worth getting up for in the morning ”. The Western view of this philosophy has been making the rounds again and again, especially in the last decade: life and business coaches work with the method, self-help books discuss the concept and there are entire videos and podcasts that deal with Ikigai. So what exactly is behind it and what makes Ikigai so successful?

The Western understanding of Ikigai

First, let's look at what Ikigai means in our modern, Western circles. Later I would like to go into what Ikigai originally meant - and how it is lived in the traditional sense.

Nowadays, Ikigai means finding the meaning of your life. This happens especially through a concrete exercise : you look for the personal intersection between what you love (doing), what you are good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs. The following Venn diagram serves to illustrate this:

ikigai venn diagram

That's exactly what makes the concept so popular: Ikigai is quickly explained, easy to grasp and can be tackled concretely .

Finding your own Ikigai can be especially helpful when we feel like we don't know what we're doing or where we want to go with our lives. If we want to reorient ourselves or get to know each other better. At its best, having an ikigai means finding meaning in what we do every day . to make wishes come true. to meet needs.

You may already be wondering what happens if you can't find the intersection between the four circles. Do you have to feel bad then? 

The Western view, which is mostly about the quantity diagram shown, has no concrete answer to this. My answer is: you definitely shouldn't feel bad. Ikigai should not be viewed as the ultimate goal or end goal. In my opinion (and the traditional view) Ikigai is rather a process and can both change and be lived in different ways. More on that in a moment. 

What the Western view of the Ikigai method cannot do

Not all of us find our personal Ikigai straight away. For some people it takes days, months or even years. Some will see that the contents of the four circles or areas change depending on the stage or phase of life. All of that is okay.

The original “promise” that you will inevitably find your own meaning in life with the Ikigai diagram is not always fulfilled or kept. But if we don't see this as the goal of the exercise, but rather see it as an opportunity to get to know ourselves better and navigate in a direction that corresponds to our idea of ​​a fulfilling life, then Ikigai can bring us a lot.

How you can live Ikigai in the original sense

Ikigai in the actual, traditional understanding stands more for a philosophy of life than for the one thing that gives our lives meaning. It's about finding meaning in everyday and small things . To pause, be in the moment and concentrate fully on what we are doing. Ikigai can also mean enjoying your coffee; to see, taste and smell him. Or being really consciously present in a conversation with a friend; to be aware of it, to live it and to appreciate it.

Ikigai can be found in many different areas of life and in each of these areas Ikigai can look different.

One last thing I want to mention: The original Ikigai philosophy does not address the issue of financial reward , that is, the area of ​​“what can I get paid for?” Rather, rewards are generally discussed. Rewards can be financial, but of course they don't have to be. Feeling useful and needed, fulfilled, feeling capable or helping others – all of these can be just as rewarding and provide meaning .

If you would like to find out more about topics such as mindfulness & spirituality, sustainability, family and pregnancy or healthy nutrition, take a look at the exciting blog articles here.

Person sits at the window in the sunlight

Photo by Tiana

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