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Japanese concept: a reason for being
Ikigai (?) (pronounced [iki?ai]) is a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being". The word refers to having a meaningful direction or purpose in life, constituting the sense of one's life being made worthwhile, with actions (spontaneous and willing) taken towards achieving one's ikigai resulting in satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.
The term 'ikigai'compounds two Japanese words: iki () meaning "life; alive" and kai () meaning "(an) effect; (a) result", (sequentially voiced as 'gai', resulting in "a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living.
Ikigai can describe having a sense of purpose in life, as well as being motivated. Psychologist Michiko Kumano describes ikigai as eudaimonicwell-being, as it "entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment". The word ikigai is also used to describe the inner self of an individual, and a mental state in which the individual feels at ease. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are perceived as being spontaneous and undertaken willingly.
In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, ikigai was thought to be experienced towards either the betterment of society ("subordinating one's own desires to others") or improvement of oneself ("following one's own path"). In the 21st century however, the focus of ikigai has shifted towards the self; instead of "self-sacrifice", the focus is on developing oneself.
According to anthropologist Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, for an older generation in Japan, their ikigai was to "fit this standard mold of company and family'", whereas the younger generation reported their ikigai to be about "dreams of what they might become in the future".
The concept of ikigai has been purported to have influence in extending life expectancy of the Okinawan people, but due to many birth and death records perishing in WWII, early studies claiming longevity in Okinawa can not be substantiated. Recent data reflects that there is no exceptional extended life expectancy of Okinawan people compared to people living in Japan or in other developed countries globally.
^Sone T.; Nakaya N.; Ohmori K.; Shimazu T.; Higashiguchi M.; Kakizaki M.; Kikuchi N.; Kuriyama S.; Tsuji I. (2008). "Sense of life worth living (ikigai) and mortality in Japan: Ohsaki Study". Psychosomatic Medicine. 70 (6): 709-15. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e31817e7e64. PMID18596247. S2CID10483513.
^Tanno K.; Sakata K.; Ohsawa M.; Onoda T.; Itai K.; Yaegashi Y.; Tamakoshi A.; JACC Study Group (2009). "Associations of ikigai as a positive psychological factor with all-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality among middle-aged and elderly Japanese people: findings from the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study". Journal of Psychosomatic. 67 (1): 67-75. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.10.018. PMID19539820.