Find your Ikigai: Japanese Quest for the Meaning of Life

Ikigai is a philosophical concept deeply rooted in the Japanese mentality.

While we all ask ourselves questions about the meaning of our existence, the Japanese were able to create a method allowing them to find a reason to live, allowing them to find their ikigai.

Yes, this mysterious term designates a kind of goal to pursue, specific to each of us and supposed to make us happy.

In short, today we are going to try together to learn more about ikigai, how to find yours and everything this approach can bring you!

Contents :

What is ikigai?

The ikigai diagram

How to find your ikigai?

A formula for happiness

Ikigai and religion

Conclusion on the idea of ​​ikigai

Path to a Shinto temple, Japan.

What is ikigai?

As is often the case when it comes to Japanese, the term ikigai can already be understood by looking at the roots that form it.

Composed of “iki” and “kai”, ikigai is an achievement to achieve (kai) during our life (iki).

When we look at Japanese dictionaries, this concept is defined as “ikiru hariai, yorokobi, meate”, which translates to “a certain thing that keeps us alive and brings us joy and purpose”.

Ikigai is thus a kind of reason for being, a way of traveling on the path of life more than a clearly defined goal. In this sense, many see it more as a method than as an end in itself.

One thing is certain: the Japanese have a unique mentality in the world, from which equally unique ideas have emerged. If you are curious to discover some of them through symbols and lucky charms, here is a collection from our site that should please you.

In short, another way of providing a definition to our term can be to describe… what it is not!

So, we can say that your ikigai is not :

  • A way to get rich, gain glory or fame
  • Something that will change the entire world
  • Linked to unattainable skills
  • A goal in itself

In short, you will have understood: we are talking here about a philosophical concept which can be felt but which is quite difficult to describe.

Go and explain to simple people what love, friendship or hope is... It would not be an easy task!

Well it's the same with ikigai.

There is one thing to remember to fully understand what we are talking about: your ikigai (once you have found it) will be what gets you up in the morning, what will embody happiness for you and what will help you find meaning in your everyday actions.

Ikigai diagram, with the four questions and the concepts of passion, mission, vocation and profession.

The ikigai diagram

The concept of ikigai is often represented by the diagram you see here.

In fact, this is probably the best way to make you understand what it is…

Ikigai is in fact the meeting point, the fusion of several considerations to have about our life (or rather, about what we want to do with it).

Find what balances all these points, and you will have found your ikigai!

Here is an explanation of these few ideas:

  • What the world needs : For your actions to be accepted by the group, what motivates them must be positive.
  • What you can be paid for : We cannot ignore the material aspects of life, and we all need a means of sustenance.
  • What you are good at : We all have qualities and faults, and we must take them into account in our life choices.
  • What you love : You will always be better at doing what you love. It will also be easier for you to do it over the long term, even over your entire life.

When we look at the ikigai diagram, we further see that the intersections of these four major axes are also associated with concepts:

  • The mission : We are on earth for a good reason, a reason that makes us happy, but also the world.
  • Vocation : Sometimes certain choices seem self-evident, such as when we find something useful to the group and why we are paid.
  • The profession : We will only be truly fulfilled in our work if we are able to shine through it.
  • Passion : We all have passions, things that we love and are naturally good at.

Three Japanese lucky charms: a Maneki Neko figurine, omamoris and a daruma doll

The magical power of Japan

by these ancestral Japanese lucky charms


How to find your ikigai?

According to Japanese tradition, we all have our own ikigai. However, knowing what we are made for is often complicated.

Who has never hesitated when faced with a choice of study, career or, more simply, when faced with a menu in a restaurant?

Yes, knowing yourself is not an easy task.

Don't worry: the Japanese have developed a method to help you!

To find your ikigai, the best way is probably to refer to the diagram we have together earlier.

It brings together the four fundamental questions you must answer to achieve this.

We will now analyze them in more detail.

What do I like ?

We should all ask ourselves this question, whether we are looking for our ikigai or not.

The set of “what we love” includes everything that brings joy, happiness or satisfaction to our life, everything that helps us feel alive and flourish.

The answer to this question will therefore not be unique, far from it.

So think about your hobbies, the activities that have left you with pleasant memories, your musical or culinary tastes, the people you hang out with, the way you met them, etc.

Because this question is the first, and is therefore decisive for all those that follow, here is a wikiHow site guide to help you find what you like.

What am I good at?

You can only truly thrive in a field if you are happy with the work you put in there.

A pottery enthusiast unable to create a decent vase will perhaps have fun (at first anyway), but will quickly experience disappointments...

Answering this question will allow you to “filter” the result of the previous one.

Some people underestimate themselves and sometimes have difficulty answering this question (or, on the contrary, overestimating themselves does not filter anything). In this type of situation, it may be a good idea to ask those around you, or even professionals in the field that interests you, to give you their opinion!

What can I do to get paid?

An activity that you love and that you are good at, but which does not allow you to make a living will inevitably lead you to live an unhappy existence.

Please note, we are not talking about earning a lot of money here, but simply enough to meet your basic needs and, ultimately, those of your family.

This criterion also ensures that your ikigai corresponds to a viable path in the long term.

Indeed, if you can get paid for it, it means that other people were paid for it before you, and therefore that they were able to work in this field that interests you over the long term.

What does the world need?

This question is arguably the most spiritual in finding your ikigai.

Knowing how to answer the other three will bring you a stable and serene future, yes, but you would miss an essential facet of our concept.

Ikigai must be something flowing from the natural order of the world, something that will make you exist in it harmoniously.

When we talk about being useful to the world, we do n't necessarily mean the whole world. No, it's more about bringing something positive to others, whether it's a small community around you, nature or, why not, your entire region.

Other common sense tips

Basically, knowing how to answer these four questions will help you find your ikigai. It's as simple as that.

All the complexity therefore lies in finding an answer to them!

To do this, Japanese culture can provide us with some common sense advice:

  • Know how to accept yourself as you are
  • Learn to connect to the world around you
  • To do big things, start small
  • Seek the simple joys of life
  • Try to live in the present moment

These tips seem simple but, in the end, applying them will be the fruit of deep personal work.

To help you, many personal development methods, techniques and tools have been developed over time.

Two sisters in Asia, smiling in the monsoon rain.

A formula for happiness

Finding your ikigai thus amounts to finding something to fill your life, provided that this thing meets the criteria set out above.

When we think about it, it seems clear that all this can only make us happier or, in any case, fill a void that could make us unhappy!

Some people in Japan swear by the concept of ikigai to ensure happiness, particularly on the island of Okinawa where it is said to have appeared centuries ago.

Anyway, now we're going to outline some of the greatest things you can achieve through your ikigai.

Motivation at every moment

Imagine waking up every day with the enthusiasm of those who know what they have to do.

Well, that will be possible when you find your ikigai.

This clearly defined goal in your head will help you to always move forward by giving meaning to each of your days.

Know how to live in the present moment

In the same way, knowing what you live for will allow you to savor each moment intensely (again, because you will know how to give them meaning).

Work will no longer be a chore but an opportunity to move towards what your ikigai tells you.

Even seemingly simple actions like breathing or eating can be bathed in this positive state of mind which, in the end, will make them significantly tastier.

Possible longevity

This question is debated but there are certain disturbing elements that point in this direction: it seems that having found your ikigai helps you live longer and in better health.

As we told you, it was on the island of Okinawa that the concept of ikigai was born, and it is there that it is still the most respected today. However, it is also on this island that we find the largest concentration of centenarians in the world...

Other factors can of course come into play regarding the exceptional health of these Japanese islanders, such as a mild climate, a diet rich in fish and vegetables or a low-stress living environment.

However, it remains clear that being able to give meaning to our lives helps us maintain our morale, which is an essential factor in longevity.

Always know how to find your balance point

We all experience failures and disappointments.

It's normal. It's part of life.

The only thing to do when we experience it is to get back up and keep moving forward. In other words, we need to find a new balance point.

A bit like a tightrope walker who knows how to move forward by fixing a point in the distance, with a clearly defined ikigai can help us more easily find new points of balance when upheavals impose themselves on us.

And a whole bunch of other things!

You will have understood: it is in your best interest to find your ikigai.

The benefits are numerous... and here are a few others that we will simply mention:

  • Optimism at every moment
  • A healthier life in general, to better be able to move towards our ikigai
  • The ability to give things the right amount of time
  • Less stress and pressure
  • More serene relationships with others, because we expect less from them
  • A stronger connection with nature and the order of things

In reality, we could cite dozens and dozens of virtues through the search for your ikigai. For example, here is what the site says about the quest for meaning in your life, and about the various benefits that can result from it.

A Zen garden with sand, a reiki pendant and tea ceremony materials

Discover Zen and its virtues

with lucky charms and soothing tools


Ikigai and religion

Following a spiritual path is not an easy task. It takes a lot of work, as well as a lot of strength and courage.

The method allowing you to find your ikigai provides you with help which can make your task easier.

However, some of us have faith in a religion or, more broadly, already follow a certain doctrine or philosophy.

A question then arises: does this notion of ikigai contradict some of the precepts that I follow?

The answer is simple: no, absolutely not.

If you understand the essence of ikigai, you will also know that there is nothing sacred behind it. This principle is philosophical yes, spiritual no doubt, but in no case does it link you to belief in this or that religion.

Believers (whether Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, etc.) can also rely on their beliefs in the search for their ikigai.

For some, for example, this quest will lead them to get closer to their faith, to show more devotion to God or even to become a monk.

To convince you, here for example is a post from the Larousse encyclopedia which describes the main religions present in Japan, proof if any were needed that they can be compatible with the idea of ​​ikigai.

Japanese landscape, with mountains, fog and the Sun.

Conclusion on the idea of ​​ikigai

After reading this article, the idea of ​​ikigai might still seem vague and difficult to explain.

This is completely normal: we are really talking here about a philosophy of life more than a well-defined principle.

In the end, the best way to understand what an ikigai is is undoubtedly to find your own and, as such, you now have all the cards in your hands to achieve it!

The Japanese believe that a particular ikigai exists in each of us. More than a lifestyle choice, they see it as a part of the individual which, if ignored, can misalign us and prevent us from living happily.

The good thing about this concept is also that it is truly personal to all of us. No matter our beliefs, our past, our tastes or our desires, we can all answer the four questions we saw together.

Thus, ikigai has no borders, no limits.

I don't know about you, but for my part I really like this kind of principle which brings us while leaving us free.

author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.