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IKIGAI - The Key To Longevity

People with IKIGAI have more life satisfaction, better relationships and less stress. So what is IKIGAI?

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In this video, I would like to focus on the fundamental concept called IKIGAI from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Okinawa is interesting because there, people have the longest average life expectancy in the world. They live on average 10 years longer than people in the Western world - 10 more years of a full and healthy life. Looking at particular data, we can see a significant reduction in heart disease, colon cancer, and for example, both breast and prostatic cancers are down by 80% compared to the US. So what is the leading cause of longevity in Okinawa?

Several studies have tried to answer this question. They had many theories - for example, eating a lot of fish, vegetables, having beautiful beaches or very kind people. But even though the diet certainly has a significant influence, one of the most important predictors of longevity was IKIGAI. So what is IKIGAI and where can I buy it?

If you would like to see some lokal 100-year-olds, I suggest you should visit the Sunday markets in the capital city, Naha. Many people there would be much over 80 to 90 years old. Naha has the highest concentration of 100 years in the world. And what would be even more interesting is that the elderly would not only be shoppers, they will be sellers as well. Because wait for it, in Okinawa they have no word for retirement. At Okinawa, on the other hand, they are trying to find the IKIGAI.

If you had to translate it, it would mean something like a life long purpose. Even older people there participate in local communities, they are trying to be useful, help others, and they are never left out.

A key study done on men at Okinawa showed that having IKIGAI, indicated in the study as a strong sense of purpose, was associated with a 72% decrease in stroke, 44% decrease in cardiovascular diseases and a 38% reduction in other causes of death, such as cancer. And that is very significant.

How do the Japanese define their IKIGAI?

They describe it as a combination of four areas:


  • The first area is to do what you are good at. Apply your strengths daily and improve them. Someone is creative, someone systematic. Someone tech-smart, or good with people. Knowing your strengths and be able to recognize them is crucial from IKIGAI's point of view.
  • The second part is to do what you like, what brings you positive emotions. You might like squash, and someone else running, whatever makes you happy. Maybe you know the famous proverb that the path can be the destination. This part of IKIGAI is about finding what psychology defines as the state of flow, finding happiness in the process.
  • The third part is the most important. It is about finding what the world needs - doing something that helps others and is useful for the society. It doesn't have to be only big things, but it's even the small ones that count. For example, Okinawa has exceptionally kind shop assistants because they take their job as a service to others and are proud of it.
  • And the fourth part of IKIGAI is the part that earns you living. Enough money to cover the primary needs of yourself and your family. So money is important, but only to a certain extent.

Together these four areas form the IKIGAI and people who manage to find it live much longer. One explanation is that people with IKIGAI have more life satisfaction, better relationships, less stress, and the stress hormone cortisol our silent killer.

To help you find your IKIGAI, you can download a special questionnaire that we made and that will guide you through your first steps.

If you are further interested in the topic of finding your lifepurpose check our book The End of Procrastination.

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