Ikigai. There’s no one way to properly describe what ikigai means; it’s a little bit of an emotion and a little bit of a state of being. But loosely translated, ikigai embodies the idea of happiness in living. It’s what drives you and wakes you up every morning with a sense of purpose. But it’s so much more than that too.
What is the meaning of ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese concept, compounding two words: iki (生き) meaning life or alive and kai (甲斐), pronounced gai, meaning an effect, result, fruit, worth or use. To summarize, it’s something that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living. On a much deeper level, it’s a self-reflection process. Knowing your ikigai means understanding yourself, your values and what serves you in the real world.
But why are we telling you about this? Well, ikigai can play an important role in defining your life as a teenager and potentially answering one of the most crucial questions that you inherently ask yourself: what is my purpose?
The good part is that you’re not alone. Many more young learners and teenagers like yourself are plagued by what to study next, what to do, will I do well as a dancer, doctor, scientist, engineer, artist, or any other passion you want to explore.
As a young learner, ikigai can shape your motives and help you find your true passion. It can even serve as a way of finding the ‘why’ behind your actions and make you wonder whether it’s something that brings you joy or not. There’s really no better way to truly know yourself than by asking all the right (or wrong) questions. In fact, several studies have found that following the path of ikigai not only gives people clarity in their vision but also provides long-term health benefits too!
What is ikigai not?
Now that we know what ikigai is, it’s important to note that it’s not as simple as “following your passion”. A few simple factors differentiate ikigai from the latter:
- Ikigai is challenging. It involves a lot of perseverance and personal growth.
- Ikigai is a choice. You must feel responsible for your choice and journey.
- Ikigai demands commitment. It’s a process that takes time and effort, and you won’t see a difference overnight.
- Ikigai boosts your well-being. It encourages positive relationships and good health, leaving you with more energy to do what you really love.
How do I practice ikigai at a young age?
Life as a teenager can be filled with curveballs, full of emotions, excitement, impulsive decisions, and a lot of confusion. As a teenager, you are at the cusp in your life where you need to decide on a career, find a path, and so much more. It is at this stage that many end up blindly following unrealistic passions and wind up feeling discouraged when their dreams don’t materialize. Many others will resign themselves to careers that bring them money and status but no joy or fulfillment. The end goal of practicing ikigai as a teenager is to, as Mark Twain rightly said, ‘find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.
Now, you must be wondering how you can make this happen? Here’s how. First, start your journey by asking yourself these five crucial questions:
- What does my best day look like? (Your perfect day, which brings you happiness)
- What’s keeping me stagnant? (Is it your insecurities, fear, or doubts?)
- What comes easy for me? (When you feel that time has passed so quickly you didn’t even realize it)
- Who am I when alone? (Tap into your true inner self)
- How can I help someone today? (Something you can offer another that also makes you happy) [Side note: An NPR research found that a teen’s self-esteem rises after volunteering or helping strangers]
These questions might seem philosophical or too deep to answer but they’ll go a long way in helping you find your calling. This is because ikigai for teens addresses inner crises and gently nudges them towards their goals. Answering all the above questions will help lay a rock-solid foundation and guide you in finding your passion or career.
Can ikigai help me find a career path?
Yes! Ikigai can help you navigate not just your life decisions but your career as well. Here are a few things you can follow to help you along the way:
Start by writing down these questions on a piece of paper and try to answer each one of them with as much honesty as possible:
- What do you love to do?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be rewarded for?
It’s good if you have all the answers, but it’s okay even if you don’t. Give yourself the time to think about them and answer them over time.
Let’s take for example that you’re an artist who loves to tell stories. You’ll realize that you have many career options to choose from such as an illustrator, a writer, a painter, or a filmmaker. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way of finding purpose. There’s only your way. So, don’t be too quick to judge yourself. You can always add, remove, and modify your ikigai along the way.
It’s not a race against time
Ikigai is not about getting things right or becoming a millionaire. Instead, it’s about your personal growth and finding the right place for yourself in the scheme of things. Remember not to pressurize yourself along the way. But always be curious; it will take you a long way. With some trial and error, you will be able to uncover your purpose and passion.
Let your ikigai be the north star for you. And never forget, it is a process and it will take time.
Discover your ikigai with Uable’s real-world learning
At Uable, teenagers can immerse themselves in real-world experiences to explore their interests and passions, and discover what they truly want to do. We enable real-world learning with the power of challenges created by global experts on the app. They lead to immediate, bite-size learning and build excitement around the theme or the domain that interests you.
It pushes you to leverage experience, harness internal and external resources, develop a plan, and move forward to find the best solution. Along the way, there is experimentation, failure, and ultimately, success!
You can get started by exploring challenges across domains like entrepreneurship, marketing, tech, and many more. Interact with experts, brands, organizations, and find like-minded peers who share common interests. It’s an exciting place for self-discovery and finding your ikigai!