What is an ikigai? Without a direct translation, most native Japanese speakers cannot immediately describe the meaning behind the word using Western language. That being said, the feeling of ikigai can be captured in the essence of what it means to be alive, and that which keeps us excited for every day ahead. In the West we have settled on translating ikigai into 'a reason for being'; a simple statement that details a deep and complex approach towards ones own life.
Why do we wake up in the morning? What drives us to get out of bed? Many of us find ourselves living a life we often try to escape, the simple answer to why do we wake up in the morning being: our alarm, and a fear of being late to work. In the essence of ikigai, the idea of living to work is all wrong, and instead we should work to live. What we do in our day to day must fill us up rather than drain us, give us a reason to wake up excited rather than counting down the days until the weekend.
Of course we can't all be so lucky to be in our dream job off the bat, but in spite of this we shouldn't allow our lives to be dictated by going through the motions. Finding an ikigai involves turning your gaze inwards, and finding out what truly makes you tick. Exercise, family, art, music, food, friends, or nature. Discovering what you love, what creates the sensation of time falling away can be interwoven into the things we must do, and by doing so, makes the 'musts' a little sweeter.
To find your ikigai you must ask yourself some questions:
What made you happy as a child?
What do you love to do now?
What are your skills and strengths?
What inspires you?
What impact do you want to make?
The ideal ikigai could be something that benefits the world around you, and ultimately becomes something you could do for a living, turning your passion into a source of sustenance.
Finding what drives you isn't always easy. We can get lost in what we think we need to do versus what actually makes us happy, and finding our way out of learned behaviours and thoughts is often the very first step towards clearing space for understanding ourselves on a deeper level. Don't sweat it if you can't think of what your ikigai might be right now; it could take days, weeks, or months to discover a passion, but striving towards finding your calling will lead to many happy moments along the way.