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IKIGAI - The Key To Longevity

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

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Would you like to find your IKIGAI? Our questionnaire will help you

The fundamental concept called IKIGAI comes from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Okinawa is interesting because it’s the location in which 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 the data, we can see a significant reduction in heart disease, colon cancer, and for example, both breast and prostate cancers are 80% below levels in the US. So what is the leading cause of longevity in Okinawa?

Several studies have tried to answer this question. They have had many theories - for example, eating a lot of fish and 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 you buy it?

Could you find it in an Okinawan market? Yes, but not where you might expect. If you would like to see some local 100-year-olds, I suggest you visit the Sunday markets in the capital city, Naha. Many people there would be older than 90 and Naha has the highest concentration of 100 years in the world.

What is 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. Instead, they are trying to find IKIGAI.

If you had to translate it, it would mean something like a lifelong purpose. Even older people 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 else is systematic. Someone tech-smart, or good with people. Knowing your strengths and being able to recognize them is crucial in finding IKIGAI.
  • The second part is to do what you like, what brings you positive emotions. You might like squash, and someone else running. 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 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 a living. Enough money to cover the primary needs for \ yourself and your family. So money is important, but only to a certain extent.

Together these four areas form 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 less of the stress hormone cortisol our silent killer.

Would you like to find your IKIGAI? Our questionnaire will help you

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

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