Ikigai —finding your own unique path

For years we’ve been hearing terms like “mid-life crisis” or even “existential crisis”, casually. It usually doesn’t make sense unless you reach a stage when you look around and realize, everyone around you is just like you, exhausted, worn out, looking for happiness, and running a race that doesn’t seem to end. Sounds depressing? Well, there’s no need to be. “Ikigai” is here to your rescue.


A few years ago, I met a 98 year old Army veteran in a Military Hospital. He was there for a minor ailment and we often used to cross paths while he took a stroll through the corridors. He was smart, talkative and a master in engaging people with his conversation skills. On a particular morning though, I was not up for any conversation, he walked into the common area, and after the usual exchange of pleasantries; I buried myself behind the newspaper trying my best to avoid chatting. He made a comment, “You read a lot, have you read the book “Ikigai”? try reading it, if you haven’t already”, a book recommendation from a 98-year-old certainly piqued my interest and the coincidence had to be the fact that it was about long and fulfilling life!


For years, Japanese life practices have intrigued the world around because of the long life that they enjoy. Earlier, their life expectancy was attributed to healthy food choices, however, studies now show that the practice of “Ikigai” is also a major contributing factor. So this brings us to the question, what is “Ikigai” actually? Well, I’ll tell you what it isn’t exactly, first…It isn’t a shortcut to Happiness and Life Fulfillment that you can read about in a book, it definitely isn’t the key to unlocking the secret of the Universe. While it is easy to define, write it down and even refer to multiple diagrams available on the internet, it is believed that the Japanese do not work on a defined framework. Ikigai like self-motivation has to be sought within oneself.


“Ikigai” is finding the unique purpose of your life. It works on the principle of finding your gift, something that brings back the drive and passion that one might have lost. It is a life practice based on four fundamentals which are passion, vocation, profession, and mission. Simply put, it is a philosophy that integrates something that you love, something that you’re good at, something that you get paid for, and something that the world needs together.


If one thinks of a living example, Elon musk comes to mind. it is said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, found his purpose when he heard Neil Armstrong utter the famous quote “ That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. He was passionate about science and space as a child and it turned him into an entrepreneur who is not only working to bring about a breakthrough in Space science but has also pledged to work on climate change. Well, Ikigai isn’t just for big business ideas, plenty of craft artists and visual artists have turned their passion into a vocation and are being appreciated for it, although it isn’t new, it is appreciated more now than ever probably because of awareness through social media. One may not start big but crafting with a goal does bring a sense of purpose. A balance of the four fundamentals may not be easy to achieve but starting somewhere can certainly set you in the right direction. So how does one go on to achieve it?