Ikigai—Finding Joy and Value in Everyday Life
I've been noticing that the word "Ikigai" is becoming somewhat popular outside of Japan in recent years, and I want to share a little bit about how a Japanese person might understand this word.
The word Ikigai is often explained as "a reason to get up in the morning" or "a reason for being." This word consists of two parts—"Iki" meaning "to live," and "gai" meaning "worthwhile" or "value."
Ikigai does not have to be related to your job or some kind of a big goal in life. For Japanese people, Ikigai is rooted in everyday life and it can be different for each person. Some might say their jobs, volunteer work, or hobbies are their Ikigai. Some might say watching their children or grandchildren grow is their Ikigai. Ikigai can be a small joy and fulfillment you feel in everyday life—something that would make your everyday life meaningful and valuable to you.
Now, paying attention to joy in everyday life can be very challenging at times. When we experience hardships or extreme stress in life, we might find ourselves ruminating and unable to focus on activities that might bring us joy. Or, it might feel like what we once considered our Ikigai got violently taken away and it's impossible to ever feel joy again. In times like this, we might need to intentionally bring our attention to the here-and-now in order to allow ourselves to notice small joys in life and start feeling better.
This does not mean we cannot allow ourselves to feel other feelings—we can notice difficult feelings and yet choose to let ourselves enjoy some moments during the day. I understand this might take some practice... things can be very difficult at times.
Your Ikigai can change throughout life, and you might not be sure what your Ikigai can be right now. Let's start by creating a little space in your everyday life for you to fully experience whatever activities you might enjoy. Let's find an activity that might help you feel more connected to others or to the world around you. Let's find something you can look forward to each day, even when things are difficult—finding a reason to get up in the morning can make a big difference in your life.