Ikigai – What the Heck does that Mean?

Ikigai – What the Heck does that Mean?

Pop Quiz: What country on the planet has the oldest population?

Answer: Japan.

What is Japan’s secret to the people living so long? Here is one possible explanation that is deeply rooted in their culture. The term is called Ikigai (e-kee-ga-e)

Ikigai has no direct translation, but instead, the meaning is formed by combining two words, Ikiru, which means ‘to live’ and kai, which means ‘shell.’ In the olden days, such as the Heian period (794 to 1185), shells were considered very valuable and were considered part of the monetary system. Today, though the term still refers to a shell, it has morphed into also meaning, ‘the realization of what one hopes for.’  Together, Ikigai translates into a concept of ‘a reason to live.’

As the graphic below illustrates, not one segment of the image can provide complete satisfaction in a person’s life, but together, all four provide the sought-after alignment.

Take a reflective moment and ask yourself, what motivates you to wake up in the morning? Consider the phase of life you are in. Use the below image to shape the life you are looking to pursue.

How can Igikai help you bring these goals into view? Going back to school to get a degree or an additional credential may help deliver you these goals.

Reflect on these four questions:

  1. What do you love?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What does the world need from you?
  4. What can you do and be paid for?

Ikigai L

You have answered the four questions, but you may feel as if you have only begun your Ikigai. In our world of instant gratification, do not be alarmed if your progress toward Ikigai takes longer than hoped; it is a slow process of attainment. In the end, attaching purpose to your life is better than not aligning your spirit at all. Also, and as a final note, your Ikigai can change as you age.

Greg Price

Associate Dean

School of Applied Leadership

Published June 29, 2018



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