"Ikigai" is Japanese for "a reason for being". Apply its four questions to your life-path

  • What do you love?
  • What are you good at?
  • What does the world need from you?
  • What can you get paid for?

These are the four questions at the heart of ikigai, the Japanese art of defining and refining your "reason for living". An article in the World Economic Forum blog outlines the philosophy - but also connects it to the extraordinary longevity of Japan's elders. What can we learn from it, if we want an alternative view of the good and flourishing life? (We are in the market for that at A/UK - we stick pretty closely to Alternativet's six proclaimed values in our daily practice). 

An excerpt from the blog:

Finding the answers and a balance between these four areas could be a route to ikigai for Westerners looking for a quick interpretation of this philosophy. But in Japan, ikigai is a slower process and often has nothing to do with work or income.

In a 2010 survey of 2,000 Japanese men and women, just 31% of participants cited work as their ikigai.

Gordon Matthews, professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and author of What Makes Life Worth Living?: How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds, told the Telegraph that how people understand ikigai can, in fact, often be mapped to two other Japanese ideas – ittaiken and jiko jitsugen. Itaikken refers to “a sense of oneness with, or commitment to, a group or role”, while jiko jitsugen relates more to self-realization.

Matthews says that ikigai will likely lead to a better life “because you will have something to live for”, but warns against viewing ikigai as a lifestyle choice: “Ikigai is not something grand or extraordinary. It’s something pretty matter-of-fact.”

More on ikigai from the BBC's Capital website