Bitter Melon and a Reason To Live

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A boy saying cheese on a background of bitter melons, signifying ikigai by GradSimple.

Why do we keep hitting snooze? I mean, I like laying in bed as much as the next guy, but shouldn’t life feel so exciting that you don’t want to hide from your alarm?

If you’re struggling to answer, you’re not alone. Many of us don’t have a powerful reason to leap out of bed each morning—something the Japanese call ikigai (生き甲斐), or ‘a reason for being.’

Japan’s Secret to Longevity.

No joke, it’s the secret sauce to living a long and fulfilling life. Ikigai is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. Just look at the residents of the famous “village of longevity,” otherwise known as Ogimi, Okinawa. Besides chowing down on Japanese bitter melon, what’s their secret? Purpose. A reason for being. Ikigai.

Now, I’m not saying finding your ikigai will make you immortal and solve all your problems, but if the prospect of living a life rich with purpose sounds appealing (and it should), then why not give it a shot? Scientists back this up too, linking having a purpose to better health and longer life.

So, what’s ikigai you ask?

Simply put, it’s the intersection of four key things: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. The closest word we have to this in English is “purpose.” 

In other words, finding a “purpose” → life now has meaning → joy & satisfaction. And good news, they say we all have an ikigai within us.

Sounds straightforward? Ha.

These days, I see too many people feeling stuck or lost, whether it’s in their careers or personal life. Could ikigai be the missing piece of the puzzle? 

Right now, you’re probably thinking: “This all sounds great in theory, but I don’t feel strongly about one particular thing. I’m a jack of all trades but a master of none. How do I do this? How do I find my ikigai?”

I’m glad you asked.

The Challenge of Finding Your Purpose.

As you can see, ikigai is more than just finding and pursuing your passion, because passion alone is never enough. You have to be good at said passion. It must be able to pay the bills, and it must be valuable enough to be needed. What does this mean? Well, as some guy once said, where there’s a need, there’s a business. 

So, if you can identify something that checks all 4, you have your ikigai. Sounds easy, right? Well here’s the step where most people get lost. You know the formula, but how do you go about applying it to your passions successfully?

While there’s no one “right” way, I have a proactive approach that works for me and others. 

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The human who runs the ship. Occasional writer, occasional web developer. Yes, this is the guy who hired a raccoon (if you know, you know).

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