July 20th 2020

History has shown us one such opportunity dating back to the early 17th Century Japanese Tokugawa shogunate.  The country endured a long period of relative isolation from the world:  caused by Sakoku, ‘closed country’, the isolationist foreign policy.  In part from this period, the Japanese synthesized a unique set of cultural values and beliefs.  One of these is the concept of ikigai, roughly translated to ‘reason for being’ or ‘value in living.’  

For us today, ikigai is personalized and reflective of our inner self.  It creates a mind of safety and effortlessness that can be carried into the way we navigate the outer world.  Designing our ikigai, gives meaning to work, relationships and the whole of life.


We now have evidence that ikigai can activate our mind and body in remarkable ways:

    • Ikigai has been shown to strengthen resilience and feeling that life has purpose even during hardship. One sample reported Japanese people with ikigai coping better during the uncertainty of earthquake that occurred in Japan in March 2011.

    • Research links ikigai to internal authority. A study linked people with low ikigai to a high need for external approval vs. those with ikigai tending to perform tasks for their own satisfaction. 

    • A seven-year long study of 40,000 Japanese adults showed correlation between people with a low sense of ikigai and a higher overall mortality risk, mostly due to higher cardiovascular disease. Men and women with high ikigai, rated high in positive psychology and longevity:  living longer lives.

The wisdom of mind and body connected with the heart, may hold our ikigai: ‘reason for being’ and ‘value in living’.

July 2020 | Elaine Sano