This Ancient Japanese Test Can Help You Figure Out Your Life’s PurposeFeb 8, 2019
One’s overall health can be dictated by a number of factors, be it your diet or the amount of exercise you take. One Japanese theory boils it down to one very simple factor; our purpose in life. This is ikigai.
Mind over matter
Integrative doctor Oscar Serrallach believes without question that having a sense of purpose is the most important contributing factor to one’s health and overall energy. With years of medical practice behind him, Serrallach has seen indisputable proof of this theory. He revealed that he tended to patients who seemed to practice healthy lifestyles that incorporated lots of exercise, a nutritious diet and other pursuits that upheld their general wellbeing. Yet, they still faced ongoing physical health problems. He observed that his healthiest patients didn’t necessarily live a textbook healthy life, but had a clearly defined sense of purpose.
The Japanese have a word that encompasses this school of thought: ikigai, which translates to ‘reason for being.’
What is Ikigai?
Split ikigai in two and you get iki which means life, and kai which refers to “the realization of what one expects and hopes for.” It’s a rather illusive concept and it’s easier to think of it as the sum of four parts:
- The things you love
- What the world needs from you (your mission)
- What you are good at (your hobbies)
- What you get paid for (how you make your living)
Ikigai is in the middle of these four elements as your sense of worth or value. In short, it is what gets you up in the morning. It is like a spiritual backdrop to the economic pressures of everyday life; one cannot be driven by money alone and although everyone needs money, we need passion to live a fulfilling life. More often than not, what helps us achieve ikagai are the spontaneous actions we take that have a deeper root in our sense of purpose and focus towards a particular goal.
This sense of purpose formed many rituals amongst ancient indigenous cultures. They would perform rites of passage and ceremonies to discover an individual’s spiritual role within a group or tribe. It’s a concept that holds little weight in today’s consumer-driven society, where our careers, economic status and education are often the sole drivers of our direction in life. We live in a world dictated by ‘practical reality’ and what is expected of us in society.
Luckily, there are ways to disengage from the pressures of the modern world to discover our true calling.
Connecting with our true purpose
Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist revealed what he told his students on how to fulfill their purpose: “My general formula for my students is, ‘Follow your bliss’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.”
Another school of thought has entirely different methods. Sacred Activism suggests that following our heartbreak connects us to our true purpose. Andrew Harvey says that by identifying the worst aspects of this world, we can use this to focus our actions in order to make a positive change or impact. On the other side of the dice is Howard W Thurman who says “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that… Because what the world really needs is people who have come alive.”
But which method do you follow? Whilst Harvey’s theory seems more practical than the others, wouldn’t it be nice to follow what you’re innately passionate about? Whichever one you choose, it doesn’t take away from financial and societal pressures and what they demand of us. It’s all well and good following your ‘bliss’, but what happens when you can’t pay the rent? How do you balance the abstract nature of ikagai with the practicalities of life?
Use your passion to make a positive change
People are finely tuned to the world’s problems today more than ever before. We are now witnessing a movement where people utilize their skills to do more than make money; they use them to make a positive change.
One such person is Atira Tan, who followed Harvey’s ‘heartbreak’ theory. When she saw child sex trafficking in Asia, she combined her passion for art with the change she wanted to see she set up her international foundation, Art2Healing. The foundation makes transformational healing and movement art accessible to people who have been traumatized by such events. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the teenager who created Earth Guardians, is another such individual. By blending his natural talent and desire to save the Earth, he is now leading a movement that will preserve our planet and support future generations.
The theory goes that if we bring passion and love to what we are doing, we are more effective in bringing a change and will ultimately be happier within ourselves.
How could you unlock your ikagai?
Photo Credits: Unsplash, Pure Flow Yoga, Uplift