You need an Ikigai to cure depression and live longer


Ikigai: the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom

What is an Ikigai?

It’s a Japanese term that means, “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”. You can think of it as your calling in life, or the reason you get our of bed with a smile on your face in the morning.

Don’t be mistaken with this as being just a quaint term for an abstract concept either. Scientists who study the Okinawans in Japan believe their Ikigai is the reason they live on average 7 more healthy years than the average person does here in the west.

Unlike us, the Okinawans have an Ikigai, but they don’t have “retirement”. Retiring isn’t something they do and they just don’t have a word that means “retire” in their language. It isn’t a concept that they are familiar with because that’s the domain of their Ikigai.


Retirement is a modern concept

Strange but true, it was in 1883 that Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany set the age at 65 for retirement and it was in 1930’s America that the first proposed plan for retirement was set in place.

Created by Dr. Francis Townsend (1867-1960), American physician, author, political organizer, the Townsend Plan soon became very popular even though it was criticised by economists of the time.

In the UK the Old Age Pensions Act was passed in August 1908 and the first payments were made on 1 January 1909.

Clever marketing

It used to be that we worked until we died. Our work was who we were and if you were lucky your work was also your passion. But, then along came the marketing “people”. They started to change our views on what growing old should look like. They made retirement look like something that we should look forward to.

Now in the western world we all look forward to the day when we finish our final day at work. For the younger generation looking at the years past 70 it consists of putting on your slippers, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing golf and buying a caravan to travel at 25 miles per hour around the countryside of Britain and Europe.

Yet, most of the retired generation still have lot’s of energy and vitality. Lot’s to contribute and offer. They still want to live a life, but have been duped into thinking that their work is done and now is the time to relax and stop pushing themselves to achieve more. A lot more.

Hot to find your Ikigai

The alternative is to find your Ikigai again. Find your passion, your why in life. Find your reason to get our of bed in the morning and discover again your reason to be.

The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.

This isn’t an article directed at people who are retired, but maybe more a word of warning to those who can see retirement looming on the horizon and could do with some direction once they get there to make sure they get the most out of their best and golden years.

So, the formulae for finding your Ikigai can be found in the diagram further up in this page and repeated again as I think it is so important-

What is your Ikigai?
  1. What do you do, or did you do until you had to retire, that makes you feel great, energised and full of passion for life?
  2. What is that you are just really good at, maybe a natural?
  3. What is it, or was it, that you get paid for or that you believe people would want to buy from you?
  4. And, what does the world need right now?

Four simple questions to position you right in the sweet spot of having a WHY in life.

Here is Simon Sinek talking about your Why in a Ted Talk.

Start with why – how great leaders inspire action