Ikigai, the Reason for Being

Ikigai is the Japanese concept that means “finding your reason for being”, finding your life purpose or goal, a reason to get up excited every morning. It was interesting for me to find out that the Japanese culture has such a long history of this concept, where it seemed to me that these were rather a century trend, a modern time realization.

Ikigai is a compound of two Japanese words: ikiru, or life, and kai, “the realization of what one hopes for”. The concepts around ikigai, or finding you reason for being, are very much similar to the well-being lifestyle theories we have in our European and American cultures. It seems, humanity around the world was always searching for balance and purpose, and ikigai is a beautiful term proving just that.

Japanese people are very familiar with ikigai and the idea of finding a reason to get up excited every morning. They also know this is not easy and that it requires a lot of searching – and they do take time to discover this for themselves. Some Japanese theories related to this say that having a reason for being also prolongs your life. The motivation a life purpose brings helps the mind and body keep running for longer.

Ikigai: answering 4 questions

Discovering your ikigai or the reason for being requires some introspection, search and finding answers to 4 questions, according to the Japanese concept. I pretty much feel these questions, once answered, can really give an individual a life purpose, and can contribute to him or her getting up excited in the morning. Let’s look at the 4 questions:

Ikigai, a reason for being


  1. What is what you love doing? If you didn’t have to earn money or things would be for free, what would you love spending your time doing? The question analyzes your core, your true desires.
  2. What does the world need from you? This is not an easy question, as you need to identify how you are contributing to making this world a better place, for yourself but mostly for the people around you. How are you valuable to the world?
  3. What are you good at? Ideally, it should be the things you love doing, but it’s not mandatory to be the same. You can be good at something else than just the things you’d love doing no matter what.
  4. What can you be paid for? This is a more practical question that asks about the things you are good at, that the others value so much they will give you money for.

While for some the answers might be common, for the others they can be quite different. If the answers are different, how can one make them be ikigai?

If you love doing something that doesn’t bring you money, how will you be able to support yourself? If what you’re good at becomes obsolete, how can you still be paid for that? Doing something that fulfills the needs of the world from you might be what you don’t love doing. You see the point? Different answer to these questions lead to imbalance, and one needs to find balance, and a life purpose as well.

Ikigai or the reason for being is basically the intersection of all this. It means discovering what you love doing and are good at, something that the world can benefit of, and can provide for an independent life. Solving the ikigai puzzle is a life challenge we all face in a way or another, and this is the beauty of it, if we look from the right angle.

Can you answer this? Can you say what is your ikigai, or your reason you wake up in the morning?

17 thoughts on “Ikigai, the Reason for Being

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