Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ikigai "Purpose for Being"

A friend of mine recently brought the concept of “Ikigai” to my attention. This seems like the ultimate goal that we should all try to obtain. I did a little bit of research on Google (maybe more from myself than others) and learned quite a bit.

Based on a podcast,  How To Find Your Reason For Being – Delving Into Ikigai, Ikigai stems from a story of a dying woman in Osaka.  She dreams one night that she goes to Heaven. God asks her “who are you”? She replies to multiple answers such as “I am a mother of four”, “a Shinto”, “a teacher”, etc. God replies "I didn't ask you how many children you had, what your religion is, what you do for a living". God asks "who are you"? Then, she replies “I care for my children and nurture the minds of young children every day”.  God sends her back down to earth and she wakes up the next morning with a purpose in life.

Ikagai is derived from Iki meaning “lIfe” and Gai meaning “realization of what one hopes for”. The Japanese refer to this as the “Reason for Being”. In the Ohsaki Study, Ikigai has shown to be associated with significant decrease in all-cause mortality.

Kaplan Meier Curves of all-cause mortality (n=43,391)
In this study, about 60% of the group reported having Ikagai. Compared to the cohort without Ikagai, the group with Ikagai were more likely to be employed (67 vs 50%), were more likely to have good or excellent self rated health (77% versus 36%), had lower high mental stress (12 vs 36% ), and had no physical disability (80% versus 50%). After a multivariate analysis, the lack of Ikigai was associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality, independent of sex, marital status, education level, employment, self-rated health, perceived mental stress, bodily pain and physical function.

So how does one go about finding purpose in life?

Ikigai chart : Ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can get paid for.

Per Dan Sullivan:
“Focus on things that you love.
Do the things you are good at.
Do things the world needs.
Do things you can get paid for.”

From Jim Collins “Good to Great”, the question he poses is “What you can be the best in the world at?” He proposes the Hedgehog concept. He tells the story of a fox that comes up with great ideas to eat the hedgehog but does not go very far. In contrast, the hedgehog does one thing very well. He rolls up into a ball with spikes coming out of him. Hedgehog concept is “Doing one thing and doing it well.”

In the TED Talk by Dan Buettner “How To Live to be 100+”, he describes the Blue Zone project. The research team evaluated hot-spots in the world where a disproportionate number of centenarians live. The objective was to identify common habits across the cultures. The regions included  Sardinia, Okinawa, and Loma Linda.  In Sardinia, there is tenfold increase in centenarians compared to the United States. The blue zone research team found that in Sardinia, older people are celebrated. This is beneficial to both the grandparents and children. In Okinawa, the people have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. In Loma Linda, the Seventh-day Adventists live close to 10 years longer than average life expectancy in the United States.

Buettner describes for common habits across these cultures:

(1) Move Naturally: as part of routine life, the centenarians incorporate movement into their regular activities of daily living.  Routine intentional exercise is not part of their daily activities. Although, some like the Seventh-day Adventist take regular walks, and many do gardening.

(2) Right Outlook
  • Cultures with life expectancy tend to downshift. In an era where we are constantly stressed with overwhelming demands and rigors of our work and societal expectations, it's hard to step back. But, centenarians downshift. Downshifting allows us to reset ourselves and reverse cortisol activation which leads down the inflammatory pathway and bodily decline. Seventh-day Adventists require a 24-hour weekly break.  The concept of “less is more” extends longevity.
  • Having a sense of purpose “Ikaigai”.
    • Being able to do what we love, do what we are good at, what is good for society and what we can be paid for add seven years to our life expectancy. 
(3) Eating Wisely. Consuming a moderate amount of wine. Having a plant slant diet and eating less  (20% of our stomach capacity). 

(4) Connect with people. Putting Loved Ones first. Having a sense of belonging. Being part of the right tribe.

Thanks for reading. If you think others can benefit from this blog, feel free to share and Like.

Here are the references:
  1. Sone T. et al  Sense of life worth living (Ikigai) and mortality in Japan: Ohsaki Study. Psychosom Med. 2008 Jul;70(6):709-15. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31817e7e64. Epub 2008 Jul 2.
  2. Dan Buettner “How To Live to be 100+
  3. Wikipedia “Ikigai

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