Mind Over Matter: Ikigai

By Theo Greiff

Ikigai is a way of life originating from Japan built around finding and pursuing your purpose. Upon hearing this, I was incredibly interested as the idea of purpose is one very close to my mind. I’ve struggled with the idea of purpose for a while because my interests are so varied that I can never seem to find one thing I really want to do. Additionally, I’ve never subscribed to the idea of a preordained purpose so the solution I came to was this: we have no purpose in life except those we give ourselves.

With this in mind, I view Ikigai as a self-help guide to finding your self-appointed purpose. It is divided into four primary parts: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you are paid for. Where these four meet is your Ikigai. For example, if the world needs better food distribution and you love cooking but are skilled at management, maybe your Ikigai could revolve around food drives. The philosophy of Ikigai allows people to help the world at large while pursuing their own, personal happiness.

However, the effects of Ikigai are not solely immaterial and practicing ikigai has been directly linked to a variety of very real health benefits. Within the body, the mindset of Ikigai balances out neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and there is a negative correlation between Ikigai and anxiety. As a result, Ikigai is frequently cited as a potential cause for the longevity of Japanese people about which multiple texts have been written.

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