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Ikigai 生き甲斐

The Japanese concept of ikigai refers to a set of attributes in our lives that give us a reason for being. A difficult idea to distill due to its highly subjective and abstract nature, ikigai is commonly envisioned as a set of intermingling merits, including what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for and what you are good at. Out of these merits, the notions of mission, passion, vocation, and profession emerge and converge on the finely tuned ikigai. While the great values in life are not so neatly

summarized, this ideation underscores the many ways we find meaning and the state of fulfillment we experience when they are in harmony.


In some rare cases, all the elements of a life we deem meaningful come together with minimal effort as though guided by an internal compass that points to our reason for being. However, it is a far more common experience to find we lack such intuitive direction, often asking ourselves what we can offer the world, and what we need in return to feel a sense of purpose. In this situation, it may benefit us to ask how we can find purpose in the circumstances we have, setting the compass on a course for self-discovery rather than letting it spin. This might mean starting from an endeavor in which we have found some small amount of success and probing it for further opportunities that line up with our core values, committing ourselves to the path they open before us and in effect, willing ikigai into our lives.


A reason for being is tailored to its every seeker, reflecting our individual differences and the conditions that bred them. This is one reason we may sometimes feel that certain others have it easier or better than us, and why we may find it difficult to feel at peace in life while others seem to come by it so naturally. But from another perspective, this is also one of the reasons we refuse to give up hope when we feel stuck and why we remain motivated to seek out our own special place in the sun; if we have a unique combination of values, there must be a unique way that we can unite them, and it is our aim in life to find it.


Once again, the importance of adaptability that budo stresses so adamantly comes to our aid. Our reason for living is a dynamic concept that is constantly getting reworked throughout our lives as our circumstances change and our experiences accumulate. We may brush with a strong sense of purpose at times, and we may come back to it at others after a shift in our values. If we can consistently flow with the changes that carry us along, we can consistently approach our goal with a reinvigorated spirit and a

renewed sense of possibility.


The sense of purpose and satisfaction we achieve simply from having something to strive for may lead us unexpectedly to ikigai. For many of us, the reason for being may well be to continuously discover life’s joys as we embark on new adventures, to approach each new challenge with an open mind, and to find meaning and opportunity in every experience. In this way, we may find ourselves on multiple

different courses that spread in all directions but ultimately lead us exactly where we need to go.


No matter how we each define it, ikigai gives great worth to our lives and the search for it can be a substantial part of the gratification we feel when we achieve it. If we believe we have a reason for being and we are willing to seek it with an open mind and heart, then it is only a matter of time before we find it – or perhaps before it finds us.


by a Senior Koroku Member

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