6 principles of Ikigai, the best kept Japanese secret to a long and healthy life

The concept of Ikigai is a well-kept secret hailing from Japan. But what’s it all about?

In short, it’s built around finding a life filled with all the good stuff: purpose, joy, and longevity.

Ikigai, pronounced “ee-kee-guy,” is a compelling source of purpose and motivation, providing individuals with a reason for living. 

“Everyone has an ikigai… [which] is hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search,” writes Héctor García in Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life.

It’s a profound philosophy that has the power to transform ordinary lives into extraordinary ones

It refers to the deep sense of fulfillment experienced when people go after their passions and take up activities that align well with their values, interests, and talents. 

While it may sound somewhat mysterious at first, Ikigai is accessible to all of us — regardless of where you live or who you are.

In this article, we’ll dive right into the principles of Ikigai, unraveling its secrets in everyday language. We’ll also explore how it can help guide you towards a life filled with fulfillment and joy.

1) Begin with tiny steps and manageable goals

The first principle of Ikigai encourages us to start small.

This part is all about embracing the wider journey rather than fixating on the end goal. 

Imagine you want to become an artist. Maybe you want to have your own exhibition one day. 

Instead of aiming to create a masterpiece overnight, you begin with doodles and sketches. 

So, the secret lies in the process and in the learning, not just what happens in the end.

Ikigai also teaches that fulfillment doesn’t come from instant gratification. 

Setting achievable, smaller goals helps us to fully appreciate the journey and find joy in this process.

2) Incorporate nature into your daily routine

Nature is one of life’s greatest teachers. In Japan, the concept of Shinrin-Yoku (or forest bathing, which you might have heard of) is widely practiced. 

Rather than actually taking a bath, it actually involves immersing yourself in nature, and fully taking in the tranquility it offers. 

It’s more than just a chilled out walk — it’s a chance to reconnect with the natural world around you.

Try this. Find a quiet natural setting, such as a forest, park, beach, or a secluded spot in your backyard. Wherever you choose, it should be free from distractions. 

You can sit on the ground, on a cushion, or on a sturdy, smooth rock. 

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Then, allow your breath to return to its natural pace. Pay attention to the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body.

Open your eyes and take in your natural surroundings. Notice the colors, shapes, and textures of the plants, trees, or water that surround you.

Feel the ground underneath you, the breeze on your skin, and the warmth of the sun (if there is any). 

Nature inspires and rejuvenates. It helps us to slow down, take in the beauty of simplicity, and reconnect with our inner selves.

Ikigai plays on the importance of harmonizing with our surroundings, and nature provides the perfect canvas for this.

3) Reflect on and appreciate the small things

Ikigai hinges on the significance of finding joy in life’s everyday moments. 

It’s about stopping to notice the delicate blooms in spring, the soothing pitter-patter of rain on the roof, or the laughter of children playing outside your window.

By acknowledging these many small joys, we can create a patchwork of joy.

Through this process, you’ll come to find that the pursuit of happiness doesn’t have to be extravagant or far-fetched.

By loving the little things, Ikigai encourages us to be present and find joy in the ordinary.

4) Cultivate a lifelong love for learning

In Ikigai, learning knows no age limit. 

Japanese culture values continuous self-improvement, nurturing a passion for taking on more knowledge throughout life. 

Whether it’s picking up a new language or testing out a musical instrument, the journey of learning is celebrated.

The pursuit of education enriches our lives. It keeps our minds sharp, fuels our curiosity, and opens doors to new and exciting experiences. 

Ikigai thrives on the idea that personal growth is a lifelong journey, and embracing learning is the key to unlocking that growth.

5) Find new ways to contribute to your community

Ikigai isn’t just about personal fulfillment — it extends to our interactions and relationships with others. 

According to the Japanese Government, a national survey found that close to half of people aged 70 and older participated in community activities.

Contributing to your community, whether that’s through volunteering with local projects or simply being there for your neighbors, is key to this philosophy.

By giving back to your community, you establish meaningful connections and work to build a sense of belonging.

This not only brings joy but also provides a sense of purpose. 

Ikigai teaches that happiness can be found in the happiness of others.

6) Reduce clutter, embrace minimalism

In a world filled with material excess, the principles of Ikigai advocate for simplicity. 

Minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself, it’s more so about shedding the unnecessary things so that you can focus on what truly matters.

This practice also helps to declutter both your physical and mental spaces.

Through this decluttering, we create space for what really matters, allowing us to prioritize our passions and live with purpose.

To sum things up, in the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, the Japanese practice of Ikigai offers a truly refreshing perspective on what it means to be alive. 

It’s not about acquiring more, but about finding the meaning of less. To do this, begin with small steps, savor the beauty of nature, treasure the tiny joys in life, and never stop learning. 

Also remember to contribute positively to your community, and let go of the unnecessary things to lead a life of purpose and simplicity. 

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.