Waking up with a clear sense of purpose and meaning is the secret behind why Japanese people live some of the longest and happiest lives. They sum it up in a single word: ikigai. Many of us are experiencing exceptionally challenging times. Yet we’re expected to live longer beyond 100 years of age. But how is this possible, when we’re completely stressed out? Perhaps the feeling of living for a long time may even frighten some and we’re not surprised. But there’s a way to push past that fear, a way to reduce your anxiety. A way to remain optimistic and joyful every time you open your eyes when waking up.
In comparison with many other civilizations around the globe, sections in Japan, specifically Okinawa, live women who outlive the rest of us worldwide. There are a few factors that contribute to their longevity, but the main reason is purpose. They have kept this their secret because the Japanese believe it can extend life well past 100. Waking up in the morning feels different for them. The concept of finding your purpose is an old-age ideology, but it could be the best way to find happiness.
Every year we set new intentions, but we had no idea that a pandemic was coming our way. That is why there’s no better time than now to refocus our energies. It might sound like a mission, but it’s pertinent to sit down and really plan out your hopes and goals for the future. Knowing why waking up the next morning is a whole lot more motivating than just doing the action.
Waking Up With A Clear Purpose
Most of the time we’re hopping from new goals to new missions. Whilst it’s good to have all these ambitions or dreams, it might be a let down when you’re just not cracking it. That’s why having ONE solid mantra is a better way to fully embrace everything life has in store for you. Learning to decide what’s most important to you first is crucial because you can plan out the little goals to get there afterward. It’s also relaxing knowing that you’re on the road to that destination. Despite the circumstance, waking up will seem so much easier because you have meaning in everything you’re doing.
The term, ikigai is an age-old Japanese ideology that’s long been associated with the nation’s long life expectancy. A combination of the Japanese words ‘iki’ (生き), which translates to ‘life,’ and ‘gai’ (甲斐), which is used to describe value or worth. It’s a beautiful mantra to live by, especially when waking up during difficult times. The Japanese people say that ikigai is all about finding joy in life through purpose.
In other words, your ikigai is what helps you get up when waking up every morning. It’s what keeps you going. We know how hard it’s been this year and so we thought it would help to share this life-changing secret with you. Remember that your health and longevity is not just physical, nor is it only emotional – it’s hugely mental.
Waking Up With A Sense Of Ikigai
Clinical psychologist and avid expert on ikigai evolution, Akihiro Hasegawa released a research paper in 2001. He explains that the word ‘gai’ comes from the word ‘kai’ which translates to ‘shell’ in Japanese. More specifically, the word ikigai goes back to the Heian period (794 to 1185).
During the Heian period, shells were extremely valuable, so the association of value is still inherently seen in this word. It can also be seen in similar Japanese words like hatarakigai, (働きがい). which means the value of work, or yarigai ~ga aru (やり甲斐がある), meaning ‘it’s worth doing it.’Now imagine you had to think like this every time the alarm clock goes…You’d be waking up with hope and joy most days. Gai is the key to finding your purpose, or value in life. The best way to really encapsulate the overarching ideology of ikigai is by looking at the ikigai Venn diagram which displays the overlapping four main qualities.
This Diagram Shows You:
- What you are good at,
- Then what the world needs,
- What you can be paid for,
- And of course, what you love.
If we had to sum up this basic theory. We see that waking up with Ikigai is within the crossover of these points.
Waking Up With An ‘Immortal Mindset’
Now, if you follow Longevity then you’re most likely somebody who is curious about living well and longer. If we look at the Okinawans, we notice that their mindset fits an immortal one. They don’t live without truly knowing why they are living and waking up. Getting caught up in autopilot is dangerous because it means forgetting what you’re here for.
In a 2009 TED talk called ‘How to Live to Be 100+,’ award-winning journalist Dan Buettner explores the lifestyle traits of five places in the world where people live the longest. Of all the ‘Blue Zones,’ as Buettner defines them, Okinawans have the highest life expectancy. Therefore, their strong mantra is clearly working for them. Buettner explains that in America, we divide our adult life into two categories. The USA has its work life and retirement life. Not very intricate at all. However, in Okinawa, there isn’t even a word for retirement. Instead, there’s simply ‘ikigai,’ which essentially means ‘the reason for which you wake up in the morning.’
Buettner cites the ikigai of several Okinawans:
For a 101-year-old fisherman, it is catching fish for his family three times a week. Then, for a 102-year-old woman, it is holding her tiny great-great-great-granddaughter (which she said was ‘like leaping into heaven’). Lastly, for a 102-year-old karate master, it is teaching martial arts. They all have such a clear sense of purpose and despite it all, waking up is easy for them because they know what they’re here to do.
What are you here to do? It’s loud and clear now, that when waking up we need to find a sense of meaning, purpose, and motivation in life that must come from within.
Your Life Expectancy Goes Up
Researchers also believe that the strong sense of purpose possessed by older Okinawans may act as a buffer against stress and help reduce overall inflammation.
Due to this, ikigai can help lower your chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke. There continues to be a growing body of research to support the impact of purpose on mental and physical health and how it can lead to longer life expectancy.
Dr. Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging, estimated that an ability to define your life meaning adds to your life expectancy. Dr. Butler and collaborators led an NIH-funded study in 2014 that looked at the correlation between having a sense of purpose and longevity. His study found that individuals who expressed a clear goal in life when waking up, something that made a difference. These people all lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.
Waking up with Ikigai gives you something to shape your life with. In 2008 researchers from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine conducted a study to see if they could investigate the association between a sense of purpose and the cause-specific mortality risk. Guess what? They found that those who reported having ikigai in their lives had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower mortality rates. Seven years after the study, 95% of respondents who had ikigai were still alive, compared to the 83% who didn’t. Of course, more research is needed, but these results certainly show promise.
How Do You Find Your Ikigai?
If you’re somebody who battles to answer questions around purpose or meaning, then we’re going to help you. This is not something you should ignore, because having a clear sense of purpose will improve your lifespan significantly. Now when we look at Okinawa, the weather is mild, they eat a healthy diet, and their stress is low. Of course, these are all factors that contribute to their longevity. However, their population is active and they don’t retire which means it’s got to be something else.
Basically, if you can find pleasure and satisfaction in what you do and you’re good at it, congratulations! Why? Because you have found your ikigai. Waking up and feeling lost, or unsure about your ikigai is common for many. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to refocus your mind and purpose. If you find yourself blocked because change is difficult, try adding some new things to your life. Try out a new hobby, create a new circle of friends, or find a new job on the side.
Now might be the perfect time to rethink your current state of affairs, particularly if you’re battling to identify your purpose. Yes, times are crazy, but you can start by putting together a note of the top ten things you have spent your time doing this week. Once you’ve written them down, start asking yourself if they’ve added purpose to your life.
Ask Yourself These Four Questions
Waking up will get better when you do this. Ask yourself if this is:
- What you love doing,
- Something the world needs,
- You’re good at it,
- Can you get paid for it?
These are all just thoughts, so try not to get overwhelmed and stressed about committing now. Interestingly, research has found that just like music tastes, fashion and opinions, a person’s ikigai can change and morph with age. That’s why waking up also means checking in with yourself often throughout your life. Apparently, people in Okinawa all pick up new hobbies after retirement. Therefore, it’s never too late to start enjoying life and waking up with a meaningful purpose.
Maybe in 2020, it’s time to refocus your new year’s resolutions and embrace the larger picture: finding your ikigai.
How Do We Ikigai?
It’s more than just waking up with a strong purpose. We need to foster an ikigai lifestyle. Step one seems to be all about slowing things down, which is where the Western world has gone horribly wrong. We’re so obsessed with being perpetually busy and ‘on’ all the time. However, waking up in the East is different. They emphasize meditation, sit down, drink tea, and try to be careful and meticulous.
Just take a moment to stop and appreciate what you’re doing before running off to the next thing on your list. Research says this can increase your chances of enjoying every moment and cultivate a sense of gratitude around even the smallest of tasks. You may even notice your beautiful surroundings when you slow down. Take a moment to notice something your spouse or friend did for you, say thank you, and feel a greater sense of inner peace.
Waking up is easier when you have friends and people to count on. Try to cultivate a community, is important for ikigai, and fighting with others only adds stress. This can make you feel alone when you go through challenging times. Do your best to not allow friendships to slip away.
Be Present And Mindful Everyday
The most important aspect of waking up with purpose and feeling joy is to practice mindfulness daily. Many Japanese sumo wrestlers testify that mindfulness is key in preparing for a fight.
In one sumo legend, Onami, a wrestler who lived 100 years ago, went to see a Zen master because he suffered from stage fright. The Zen master told Onami, ‘Your name means Great Wave. Imagine you are a Great Wave. Visualize yourself sweeping your opponents aside like a powerful unstoppable wave.’
He spent the days and nights meditating and visualizing himself as the Great Wave, sweeping his opponent aside with great unstoppable power, and according to legend, it worked.
As thought as things seem right now, so long as you never give up or forget that you do have a purpose in life. And as long as you never stop searching… You will find your purpose in life and live a happy and meaningful life. Waking up will be easier and so is living until 100 years old.
Ask yourself, ‘what do I truly want, right now, at this current moment? Learn how to figure this out.
This Japanese secret to a longer and happier life is gaining attention from millions around the world. Make It. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/22/the-japanese-secret-to-a-longer-and-happier-life-is-gaining-attention-from-millions.html
Ikigai: The Japanese Concept Of Finding Purpose In Life. Considerable. https://www.considerable.com/health/aging/the-japanese-secret-to-living-to-100/
Ikigai: The Japanese Concept Of Finding Purpose In Life. Savvy Tokyo. https://savvytokyo.com/ikigai-japanese-concept-finding-purpose-life/
NEWS: Huge Study Confirms Purpose and Meaning Add Years to Life. Blue Zones. https://www.bluezones.com/2019/05/news-huge-study-confirms-purpose-and-meaning-add-years-to-life/
Time for Some Reflection: Study Says Adults with a Strong Sense of Life Purpose Live Longer, Stay Healthier. Aging Options. https://www.agingoptions.com/blog/2020/05/14/time-for-some-reflection-study-says-adults-with-a-strong-sense-of-life-purpose-live-longer-stay-healthier/