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8 Ways to Achieve a Life of Fulfilment Using an Old Japanese Concept

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The Japanese philosophy of Ikigai became established in the 8th century on the island territory of Okinawa. When translated, iki means ‘life’ and gai represents ‘hopeful expectation’. Ikigai promotes ‘the individual’s raison d’etre’ or ‘reason to be throughout a long and meaningful life’.

Guided by a simple framework, it encourages each one of us to seek an ideal balance of life’s needs in relation to our personalities. A successfully fulfilling career is not necessarily one that only exists at a high-flying executive level but one that harmonises with the unique qualities of your inner-self. Achieving this balanced contentment is the surest route to a long, worthwhile and healthy life.

Here are 8 tips to help you achieve fulfilment using the Ikigai framework:

1. Discover your Unique Ikigai

On a sheet of paper, draw four circles that overlap in the centre. Each section represents the motives that directly affect your life: what you excel at, what you adore, how you can earn and if your skill is of use to anyone.

The ultimate aim is to adapt your career to ensure your personal fulfilment. When compiling your chart, remember the phrase ‘to your own self be true’. Only by being honest will you find your Ikigai and real purpose in your life and career.

For instance, if your Ikigai chart reveals a love of plants but in reality, you’re stifled by an office environment, a career in horticulture might be of greater benefit to your personal well-being.

2. Spare Time for the Present

Planning for the future is part of building a life that realises ambitions and ensures financial security. However, Ikigai is a reminder that a personal journey through life should also value the present. Time can never be recaptured so pause occasionally to appreciate the unique opportunities of each day. Enrich the quality of today by spontaneously visiting an exhibition, trying a new hobby or relaxing with a favourite book.

3. Harness Energy from Nature

Japanese culture places a great value on the restorative forces of nature. Appreciating an inspiring landscape of majestic forests, hills or lakes restores balance to a stressful life. Its powerful antiquity is reassuring and calming. Admiring the intricate beauty of flowers or listening to birds singing, reminds you of the harmony to be found in nature. The force of the natural world helps put your own existence into perspective renewing your energy and purpose.

4. Learn to Remain Active

Aim to extend the usefulness of your physical life by establishing a routine of regular exercise. As you get older, try adopting gentler activities such as walking, yoga or tai chi. Keeping your muscles and joints supple and flexible is important in maintaining mobility when pursuing a career in your later years.

5. Eat for Health

To achieve a life of worthwhile longevity with the assistance of Ikigai, you need to keep your body balanced with natural, healthy food. There isn’t a diet to follow, simply an awareness of consuming balanced amounts of essential vitamins and minerals through fresh ingredients. It is a Japanese tradition to practise hara hachi bu, a regime where meals leave you feeling around 20% hungry. It accelerates your digestive metabolism which then quickly raises your energy levels.

6. Seek Inspirational Companionship

Balance the energy to be gained during bouts of solitary contemplation with the warmth of good company. Enjoy stimulating conversation to keep your mind sharp. Relaxation and laughter amongst friends are essential for your well-being. However, Ikigai isn’t all about yourself. Maintain an ideal balance by sparing time for relatives and friends who might be in more need of companionship than you are.

7. Avoid a Worthless Retirement

The philosophy of Ikigai is primarily to achieve purpose, energy and fulfilment throughout a long, contented life. The Japanese belief is that total retirement from a useful working life is detrimental to physical and emotional fulfilment. It’s important that every day should still have a worthwhile purpose and motivation, factors that are especially beneficial in old age. When the time is right, followers of Ikigai continue useful employment by simply exchanging high-flying careers for roles that are less demanding.

8. Be Adaptable

Using the philosophy of Ikigai, allows you to regularly reassess whether your career is still suited to the ever-changing circumstances of your life. By honestly reflecting on what you enjoy and accomplish well, then seeking to combine this knowledge with earning a financial reward is a method of retaining motivation and following a useful existence throughout your life.

Ikigai helps you understand how you can achieve and benefit from a fulfilling career that is uniquely tailored to your individual personality.

Billy White is part of the writing team behind E88 Bangkok, the Bangkok-based creative space specifically designed for nurturing creativity. He likes to write about tech, lifestyle, freelancing, and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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