Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day

Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day

by Ken Mogi

Awakening your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day describes how you can recognize your ikigai or “the reason you get up in the morning”. Ikigai can be as small as having a cup of coffee or deep as having good health. This book talks about the five pillars of ikigai that can help you make the most of each day in your life.

Summary Notes

Start Small

“Ikigai gives your life a purpose while giving you the grit to carry on”

Ikigai is a Japanese word for describing the pleasures and meanings of life. The word literally consists of the words iki (to live) and gai (reason).

Discovering your ikigai gives you a “reason to get up in the morning”. It motivates you and helps you find happiness in everyday things. Your ikigai can be found within your treasured values and your ability to live them consistently on a day-to-day basis. It is important that one approaches tasks, even chores, with a level of excitement and vigor. This can only be done if you feel a sense of fulfillment in doing what needs to be done. To achieve this, it has to be small, so it can easily be done, and fulfilling. 

The Japanese people rely on little rituals in their daily routines. For example, getting up early has the most to do with starting small, as does greeting someone “Good morning” when you see them or eating a delicious breakfast. 

These are very small things yet it gives people the boost that they need.

Actions to take

Let go of the “self”

“An adherence to the self is considered to stand in the way of achieving mindfulness”

To live your best life, you must let go of the self. There is no need to burden yourself with attaining a specific social status or profession to be considered successful. Instead, you can just enjoy life with curiosity and excitement. 

Releasing yourself in this manner is related to being in the here and now. It is how the Buddhist concept of mindfulness came to be. Approach the present time with gratitude and appreciation of the things you can learn instead of wallowing in regret about the past or anticipating anxiety towards the future.

Every new discovery we have as we begin to release ourselves leads to excitement and pleasure. Once we drop the burden of the self, we can open up and get excited about what life can bring.

Actions to take

Aim for harmony and sustainability

“Without a robust and healthy society and environment, you cannot pursue your goals and aim to achieve your ambitions”

Our ikigai doesn’t only affect ourselves, but also those around us. 

Our “reason to get up in the morning” doesn’t only give us personal freedom and motivation. It also gives value to the people around us, our environment, and our society. A man is like a forest, individual yet connected and dependent on others for growth. 

Harmony and sustainability can be achieved by the effort of not just one person but the whole community. In Japan, the Ise Shrine has a long-standing tradition of rebuilding the temple every 20 years to preserve its beauty. 

While it may seem like a daunting task, those who participate in this don't think of it as such. They understand what is supposed to be done and will dedicate their time and effort to doing so. With this, Japanese culture thrives up to this day. It is their ikigai to preserve their culture whatever it takes. 

Actions to take

Find joy in small things

Ikigai is sometimes expressed as “the reason for getting up in the morning.” It is what gives you an ongoing motivation for living and the appetite for life that makes you eager to greet each new day.

Ikigai is not necessarily correlated to success in your professional life. It often resides in the small things; may it be the morning air, a cup of coffee or the ray of sunshine. For example, tuna dealers wake up very early in the morning to make sure they get the best tuna. That simple act of waking up very early is their ikigai.

When you know your ikigai, you can live your life with purpose. You’ll be happier, more satisfied and less stressed. It can help you become more creative and successful. You can achieve all this because you are doing what matters most to you every day.

Actions to take

Be in the here and now

“Enjoy the here and now and simply go on.”

Knowing your ikigai can help you increase flow and creativity in your life.

Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. When in flow, you don’t work to earn money for your living. At least, it is not the first priority. You work because working itself gives you immense pleasure. Wages are a bonus.

A serious pursuit of a personal objective is not unknown in Japan. Life is about coherence, and it helps to have a sense of direction, a vision of life’s goals, even when one has small things to support one’s ikigai. Indeed, coherence and a sense of life’s goals ultimately make small pieces of ikigai shine. It can be as simple as writing a short story, drawing a picture or even cooking a simple meal. As long as it gives you joy, go for it.

The inner joys and satisfaction will be more than enough to make you carry on with your life. If you have succeeded in doing so, then you have made yourself a master of being in the here and now.

Actions to take

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