Ikigai: il metodo giapponese per trovare il senso della vita

Understanding Ikigai: A Japanese Philosophy for a Fulfilling Life

Ikigai in Japanese literally means "a reason to get up in the morning."

We could translate this term to what Western poets and philosophers have called "raison d'être": a reason for living, for existing, this is ikigai.

A positive and proactive life philosophy that leads us to look deep within ourselves to know, understand, and discover what we want, what we are really good at, and what makes us happy.

Recently, we talked about YOLO, the approach of "you only live once," which suggests reinventing oneself, especially on a professional level, to be more satisfied. Ikigai stems from a similar premise: if our life is short, a tiny fraction of the Earth's time, and we will likely leave no indelible mark on collective memory, then it is worth engaging in something that makes us happy. The goal? To be serene, satisfied, complete, but not in a selfish sense, rather to be better with ourselves and others.

Because an individual who has found their ikigai, who pursues their goals and succeeds, will be resolved, fulfilled, and thus more inclined to good than to evil.

And now more than ever, mental health is a crucial topic!

The 4 Key Questions of Ikigai

The term is a contraction of two Japanese words: "ikiru," meaning "life," and "kai," which means "the realization of hopes."

But it is not at all easy to understand how to realize hopes and expectations regarding one's life, right? However, there are 4 fundamental questions that can guide choices and greater self-knowledge.

  1. What do you really love? What is your passion, the activity that is the core of your existence, your motivation?

  2. What are you good at? You need to come to terms with yourself, understand what you are inclined towards, your talent or vocation. The answer to the first question, to define an achievable and satisfying path, must at least partly be related to question 2 to avoid impossibilities and frustrations. Passion and talent, unfortunately, do not always coincide: think of wanting strongly to become a singer but being terribly tone-deaf... it's not impossible to improve, but the effort will be immense!

  3. What does the world want from you? We are not alone, and often our will to self-determine clashes with the needs of those around us. Or, this question can also be interpreted as: how can I channel my natural talent into something useful for the community in which I live, into a mission?

  4. How can you make a living? Unfortunately, just as passion and talent do not always coincide, the actual work we find ourselves doing is not always truly within our means. Just think of all the great artists who found themselves, at least in the early part of their lives, doing completely different and more "manual" jobs just to... pay the rent!

Answering these 4 questions sincerely and clearly can already provide a useful overall picture. The more the 4 answers overlap, the greater the chance we have of being fulfilled and happy individuals.

How to Apply the Japanese Philosophy of Ikigai in Your Life

But what if, instead, passion, vocation, mission, and actual profession diverge? Certainly, it is not simple.

There are many people with great talents in various fields who, for economic or social reasons, could not study the subject they loved or engage in their preferred work.

Or there are successful people who feel they are failing because they are not giving anything back to the world around them.

How to be more satisfied with your existence?

Ikigai is the art of finding a common denominator among those 4 elements, but our life can also consist of different parts.

For example, if you love your job but feel you are not doing anything good for the community, why not dedicate your free time to volunteering?

Or, if your profession is restrictive and serves only to pay the bills, you can unleash your true talent in your free time: whether it is music, cooking, art, DIY, sports, or any other activity, we are free to express ourselves even outside the strictly work-related context.


GreenMe BBC McKinsey

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