The Rules of Ikigai

· September 29, 2018

Japanese culture has influenced other cultures. Some Japanese teachings are now crossing into our borders. One of the most innovative ones is ikigai. This idea is relatively new, but it’s becoming very popular.

This Japanese concept means “a reason for being”. In this article, we’ll look at exactly what this concept consists of and what the rules of ikigai are.

What is ikigai

The rules of ikigai originated on the Japanese island of Okinawa. In this small corner of the world, you’ll find one of the largest populations of centenarians that exist. For that reason, authors like Dan Buettner decided to study its secrets in the second half of the 20th century.

A girl with a butterfly.

There were many factors that made the Okinawan people reach a hundred years of age. However, among all these secrets, one of the most mentioned by them was ikigai. It was, in their own words, the reason why they got up in the morning.

And ikigai is nothing more and nothing less than having a purpose, a personal mission. It’s a way of living that involves more than simply existing. Achieving this concept requires effort and dedication, but it also provides many rewards.

How to find our life’s purpose?

In Japanese culture, it’s believed that finding your life’s purpose requires two indispensable elements. On one hand, it’s necessary to do activities that make life worthwhile. Those activities are different for each person.


On the other hand, having a purposeful existence requires a specific mental state and a series of routines. This is precisely what the rules of ikigai are for. Through them, it’s possible to lay the necessary foundations for a worthwhile life.

The rules of ikigai

As we’ve seen, according to the Japanese, following the rules of ikigai is fundamental to living well. But what are these rules and how do we apply them? Let’s delve deeper.

1. Find your passion

The first and most important step is to pursue your dreams. It’s practically impossible to live a life with purpose if we abandon the path of what we really want to do. However, sometimes it’s hard to discover our passion and then pursue it. 

There are many things that pressure you to abandon your dreams and be “realistic“. You already know the established path. Society states that you have to get a degree, get a safe job, and save money to be able to go on vacation for fifteen days a year.

But what about the people who don’t want to follow this path? Non-conformists, all kinds of artists, people who like to travel, entrepreneurs. All of them would feel constrained living a life like that. Nevertheless, many times they simply settle and do it. 

Fortunately, more and more people are daring to follow their own path. In the 21st century, fulfilling your dreams is easier than ever. The biggest obstacle is fear. But if you overcome it, you’ll find more and more opportunities to achieve your passion.

2. Be active physically and mentally

After working or studying all day, what most people want to do is disconnect. Perhaps you like to lie on the couch and watch TV, surf the Internet, or eat junk food and have a drink.

However, one of ikigai’s most important rules is that you must always remain active. No matter how tired you are, if you want to find your purpose, you have to care for your body and mind.

To achieve this, it’s essential to develop healthy habits. Eat healthy, play sports, learn new things. These are routines that will help you achieve excellence and purpose in your life. 

A girl outside.

3. Connect with other people

One of the most important ikigai rules states that you must share your life with others. In solitude, finding the meaning of our existence is much more difficult. Therefore, you have to make sure that your purpose includes connections with other people that are meaningful to you.

As we can see, these three rules invite us to feed our ikigai every day with the goal of giving meaning to our existence. However, authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles have proposed 10 rules to keep our ikigai going strong. They compiled this list after visiting and researching Okinawa for long periods of time.

Ikigai guidelines

  • Always be active. It’s important to do valuable things, do what we love, and do things that fulfill us. In this way, we bring beauty and usefulness to others.
  • Take it easy. Rushing isn’t pleasant. It clouds our mind and makes us make bad decisions. When we incorporate calm and serenity into our lives, life begins to have new meaning.
  • Don’t eat until you’re full. Sometimes less is more as long as there’s a balance. What we eat also influences us.
  • Surround yourself with good friends. The people who are in our lives are essential for us to experience that feeling of wellbeing and fulfillment that we’re all looking for. A good chat, sharing moments, and having fun all contribute to living life more intensely.
  • Get in shape for your next birthday. Physical health is essential to enjoying good emotional health. In addition, exercising secretes hormones that contribute to happiness.
  • Smile. A pleasant attitude towards oneself and others strengthens relationships. It also makes us feel at ease. There’s nothing more important than learning to enjoy the present.
  • Reconnect with nature. Recharging our soul’s batteries through contact with nature gives us a sense of freedom and unmatched energy.
  • Give thanks. Giving thanks is an act of noble hearts, of those who appreciate the simplicity and complexity of life.
  • Live in the moment. All we have is the present, the here and now. Therefore, let’s stop thinking about the future. We should also free ourselves from the prison of the past to increase the flow of happiness.
  • Follow your ikigai. There’s a passion inside each of us, a talent that we should discover. We have to push ourselves to become the best version of ourselves.
Girl in a field living ikigai.

As we can see, finding our purpose, our ikigai, is much easier if we follow these guidelines. Start applying them to your life now!