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Seeking Ikigai. Health, Well-being and Longevity

An old friend called me from her job at University. She mentioned Ikigai. I had never heard the word before, and I thought she was saying Icky Guy. My imagination took it from there. This author has learned that some things are best left to the reader’s imagination, rather than to impose my vision on them. Doing so would be cheating them.

As it tuns out Ikigai is a Japanese word and concept. Ikigai roughly translated I learned means “Reason for Being”. As I read, I learned that the concept of Ikigai has been observed for a very long time. It is a powerful way to enhance mental and physical health and extend the quality and quantity of life.

One other author spoke of the long-lived, healthy people of Okinawa. These folks have no concept of retirement. So, as long at it is possible, they continue doing the things and work they love. They also observe the practice of maintaining a close network of friends. People they love and those that love them.

Feelings of depression, anxiety and frustration are not bad things as they provide a motivation to do what is needed to move beyond those states. Greater life satisfaction is the outcome. Ikigai seeks to change the changeable and accept the existence of the unchangeable.

One author wrote of a man who hated his job and the way he was supervised. However, when he came home each day his child would cling to his leg. It is here that the man found his Ikigai. He took joy and found meaning in taking care of his family materially, as well as, emotionally.

Having and searching for Ikigai is a lifelong process. It does not come to a person in a flash. Ikigai frees a person from enslavement to anxiety and the often fickle, approval of others.

How does one find Ikigai? I am glad you asked. It can be found at the intersection of “what you love, what you are good at, that which you are paid for and that which the world needs.”

Another path to finding one’s Ikigai is called by one author “The Saturday Morning Test.” Think of what you do on Saturday morning when no one tells you to. For example, you might find your Ikigai in cooking for yourself or the ones you love, you may find your Ikigai playing, coaching, or watching a sport. And still others may find their Ikigai by caring for children, the elderly, or those that find themselves homeless. Others find their Ikigai in the things and work they do on a second job or within a second career.

Ikigai is powerful but it does not change the fact that there is human suffering in the world. However, Ikigai is a path forward in the face of human suffering. Its benefits include but are not limited to improved mental and physical health, a greater sense of well-being and a more satisfying life.

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