Find your Ikigai

I recently came across a new Japanese word that I need to share with the Personal Kaizen community.

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese word that translates to “a reason for being.” I love that the Japanese language sees so much importance in this concept that it has its own word! The idea is similar to the French “raison d’être” or what we would call the “meaning of life” in the English language.

Ikigai is believed to be the primary reason the people of Okinawa, Japan are in a “blue zone” where people often live to 100+ years old. We believe ikigai is so important that we have made it Rule 1 of the Personal Kaizen 10 Rules for Life.


The image below (from helps describe the Japanese concept of ikigai.

You arrive at full ikigai when you merge what you love with what you are good at, can be paid for, and the world needs. Your ikigai is what drives you – the reason you get up in the morning. The people of Okinawa, Japan don’t even have a word that translates to “retirement.” As they get older they just focus more of their time and energy on their ikigai.

The Hedgehog Concept

The concept of ikigai reminds me of the Hedgehog Concept from the book, Good to Great. The concept is based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

The Hedgehog Concept suggests you should align your focus and goals in one area. This is the junction of what you are deeply passionate about, where you are currently driven and making money, and what you can be the best in the world at doing.

I love to learn about concepts in cultures that are important enough that they have their own word (kaizen is another great example). Concepts with special words explain a lot about the values of the culture. We would love to have you share more words like this with the Personal Kaizen community in the comments below.

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