10 Rules of Ikigai: Philosophy That Gives Meaning to Life


In life, there are moments when we stop to reflect on where we are going and what our purpose is. It is something important, since having it gives meaning to life. And a meaningful life is a fuller and happier existence, and perhaps a longer one as well.

What is Ikigai?

As the authors point out, there are words written in other languages ​​that do not have a clear translation in Spanish. It is the case of ikigai.

In Japanese it is written 生き甲斐 and consists of two parts:

iki 生き = life

gai 甲斐 = to be worth it

In other words, the literal meaning of ikigai would be “a life worth living”, although it is usually translated as ” vital purpose “, that is, the mission that gives meaning to your existence.

Put more simply, ikigai is the reason you get out of bed, and we don’t mean when the alarm goes off and you have to go to school, college, or work. It is like an internal motor, an illusion, that drives you to start the day.

What are the steps to achieve this enter this purpose in life and have a happy existence?

The authors captured the rules of the oldest Japanese, from a small town in Okinawa, in these 10 points, which are actually habits that any of us can put into practice living in the city, in a remote town, having a very busy or looking for your way. 

Live the moment

The present is the only thing we have. The past is gone and will not return, and the future is uncertain. Therefore, the ‘today’ and the now is what we really have to enjoy. However, from the time we get up until we go to bed, we are constantly ruminating, maintaining an internal dialogue that often does us no good. What if we could push those negative thoughts away and keep our mindfulness in the now? Start meditating, this can help you. 

Give Thanks

Do you realize what you have around you? Your life may not be what you expected. That you are going through a bad time, that you have lost someone special. But surely you have other things to be happy about, that make you feel good, for which to be thankful. The air you breathe, the nature that allows you to disconnect, the sea in which you can bathe, the people who surround you and love you… say thank you. Be grateful. Cultivate gratitude and you will be happier. 

Move, Take Care of Your Body 

When the water doesn’t move, it stagnates, and it smells bad. But it is beautiful to see how the water of a river flows or how the waves of the sea move. The same goes for your body. You must keep it active, for better circulation, fat burning, the release of toxins, and generating endorphins. 

Don’t Retire, Stay Active

We must always try to continue, to continue throwing those things that we are good at, with which we enjoy. With them, we add value and contribute to enriching and beautifying the world. As far as possible, then, we must continue even if the time has come to retire. 

Surround Yourself with Good Friends 

We are sociable beings and we need to be surrounded by people who accompany us, with whom we can talk, have a good time, and who support us. Solid friendships with whom to share the joys, the sorrows, the good news… isolation does not allow you to find ikigai. 

Connect with Nature 

Although most of the population lives in cities, humans, like other animals, are genuinely beings of nature. A trip to the mountains or a natural environment, away from the noise and the stress and bustle of big cities, relaxes and calms your mind. In fact, in Japan, there are also activities called ‘ forest baths ‘ to rejuvenate the body and give you moments of peace. 


What is better than a smile? Another rule for finding ikigai, the meaning of life, is to never stop smiling. Doing it on the outside has its answer within us. Our brain ‘believes’ that there are reasons to be well, so it relaxes. It is not that simple and involves maintaining a positive activity in life. That does not mean not recognizing the bad times and having a bad time, but it does mean taking advantage of what life offers us to try to be happier.  

Don’t fill up 

There is a Japanese proverb that says eat only 80% of your capacity to keep the doctor away. That is, finish eating when you still feel that you could continue consuming. This saying is very true. Experts remind you not to eat until you are full. In part, because the brain takes time to realize that the stomach is full. And because eating frugally keeps you healthier. 

Better Slow

Always running is the opposite of living life with quality. When we are always in a hurry, we are not in control of what happens to us, or our environment. It is important that we ‘stop’, that we try to slow down and that we savor every moment and everything that happens to us. Taking our foot off the accelerator will also help us enjoy the landscape more, be more aware, and make better decisions. 

What is Your Ikigai? 

Although we have not yet found it, by following the above rules we will be closer to knowing what is the engine of our lives, what is worth getting up for in the morning, and what drives us to live. We all have our ikigai. You just have to recognize it. It doesn’t have to be grandiose, monumental, or unique. It can be in the little things. 

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