The Japanese Secret To A Happy Life: Ikigai

What’s your reason for getting up in the morning? According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai, which is essentially a reason to get up in the morning and enjoy life. While there is no direct English translation Ikigai is made up of the Japanese words iki (to live) and gai (reason.) Together these definitions create the concept ‘a reason to live.’ An Ikigai is something that gives you pleasure and a sense of purpose. Finding your Ikigai requires a process of self-discovery. What do you love? What are you good at? What does the world need more from you? What can you be paid for doing?


The older you get the more you realise that life is not all about money, pride or ego. Happiness is made up of tiny successes. The big ones are also important but they happen infrequently. If we don’t enjoy the tiny successes then the big ones don’t really mean anything. Ikigai isn’t about the really big things. Beautiful things happen everyday and if we become too fixated on the future we can miss them. Don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.

How can you incorporate the Japanese concept into your day? Firstly get up early and start the day well. Your brain is in its optimum state first thing in the morning. Get up and drink a big glass of water and have a good breakfast to set yourself up for the day. We then feel ready to absorb new information.

Life is about achieving an even balance between work and leisure. Your work should never be allowed to dominate your life to the exclusion of many other important things such as friends and family. When you make a conscious choice to do the things that bring you happiness, it encourages you to make the most out of your life. Taking time to do the things that you love is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health.  The positivity that you develop from doing the things that you enjoy can directly transfer to your work and make you feel more motivated on a daily basis. It is important that we all know that we work to live and not live to work.

The realisation that some things only happen once is at core of Japanese philosophy of life. The Ikigai approach to life is about being fully present in every situation. Often people are not fully present in what is happening right now, because subconsciously they believe the next moment is more important than this one. You never really know the value of a moment until its gone. Stay present with what is happening to you right now. All your power is in the present.

Ask yourself today what is your reason to live and then build your life around your answer. Ikigai.

Lucy x