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Ikigai and Logotherapy: Exploring Ways to Find Meaning in Life

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

What is your purpose in life? Determining what drives you can work wonders for your mental health. Conversely, drifting through your existence aimlessly and reacting to external circumstances instead of mindfully responding can result in depression and anxiety when hard times hit.

Enter Ikigai and logotherapy. These practices originated in different areas of the world, but they share many similarities. Both allow you to explore ways to find meaning in your life.

What Is Ikigai?

ikigai

Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that comes from two words: “iki,” meaning “alive,” and “gai,” meaning “benefit” or “worth.” When combined, they form the concept of finding your life’s purpose.

Doing so can have considerable benefits to your health and longevity. For example, people often look to external factors such as hydration levels and pollutant exposure to explain the decline accompanying age. However, much of the aging process may be much more internal. Scientists now know that your mental state impacts physiological processes – including the behavior of cells and their susceptibility to stress and disease.

People exposed to chronic stress age more rapidly. It results in a condition called inflammaging, a constant, low-grade inflammation that makes your cells more susceptible to the damaging effects of oxidative stress.

Ikigai mitigates stress by giving you a roadmap through adversity. This philosophy defines your life’s purpose in four terms:

  • Doing work you love
  • Doing work you’re good at
  • Doing work that fills the world’s needs
  • Doing work that pays your bills

Too many people can’t find work that fulfills the last criteria in America today, driving deaths of despair. MIT defines a living wage as earning $68,808 per year, but more than half of the labor force brings home less. The first three criteria become more important to preserving your mental and physical health in such conditions.

You may not be able to fix external factors like a broken economy that only works for people who already have capital when you don’t. You can, however, find meaningful work that you love that gives purpose to your daily existence.

What Is Logotherapy?

logotherapy

Enter logotherapy, which builds on the work of Viktor Frankl. This eminent neurologist and psychologist survived the death camps during the Holocaust and devoted his life to helping people thrive, even in the most wretched of conditions. His philosophy builds upon Fredrich Neitzche’s infamous statement that “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

 

Frankl believes it’s possible to turn adversity into opportunity and achievement. He states that humans have an innate “will to meaning” – that is, a drive to find purpose in what they do.

Logotherapy challenges you when you encounter an impossible situation: change yourself if you can’t change your circumstances. This adaptability drives all evolution, helping people make their way through adversity by clinging to their life’s purpose as their guiding star.

Your 8-Step Guide to Finding Meaning in Life

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How can you use Ikigai and logotherapy principles to find meaning in your life? Here’s an eight-step guide.

1. Become Mindful

Mindfulness is your best tool for discovering your purpose. Perform activities that center you in the present moment, then take note of your motivations and drives. What makes you feel happy and fulfilled?

2. Ask Questions

Embracing a spirit of curiosity is fabulous for your mental health. When you come to a seemingly impossible crossroads, ask yourself: How can I treat this event as a roadblock to overcome on the way to fulfilling my life’s purpose? Adopting this attitude of hardships as temporary inconveniences helps you remain upbeat through challenges.

3. Determine What You Have the Power to Change

You can’t fix the world’s problems. No one person alone can bring needed care to the sick or solve the climate crisis. Practice the serenity prayer – accept what you cannot change, then gather the courage to change the things you can impact. Staying true to your life’s meaning will help you determine the difference.

4. Seek Creative Ways to Apply Your Talents

Remember that part of Ikigai is finding work that you are good at and love. How can you apply your talents, even if your current paid position offers little outlet?

Fortunately, technology makes it more possible to explore your passions as side gigs, gradually evolving them into your career. You might stock shelves during the day but create a YouTube channel or run a blog at night.

5. Focus on Helping Others

If you read “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl, you’ll discover that one of the ways he survived the horrors of the concentration camps was by helping those suffering more. No matter how bad your circumstances are, someone always has it worse. Look for meaningful ways to help through volunteering and small, random acts of kindness.

6. Set an Intention

Your purpose can get lost in the chaos of daily life. Begin each day with a brief meditation where you align yourself with your life’s meaning and set an intention for your day. It will act as your guiding star as you navigate your daily routine.

7. Take One Positive Step

Chronic stress is exhausting – trying to do it all at once will leave you burned out and disillusioned. Instead, focus on taking one small, positive step toward fulfilling your purpose each day.

8. Step Back and Reassess

Your life’s meaning may change with time. Make time in your schedule for reflection and alter your course when necessary.

Exploring Ways to Find Meaning in Life

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How can you avoid chronic stress and the associated health risks? Exploring what creates meaning in your life can help. Ikigai and logotherapy may have arisen in different parts of the world, but they embrace similar concepts. Practice these methods to find meaning in your life.

Interesting facts about ikigai and logotherapy

What is logotherapy – ikigai?

Both logotherapy, developed by psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, and its eastern counterpart ikigai try to find our reason of being. In other words, both try to find the reason why you want to wake up in the morning. The etymology of logotherapy learns us that the Greek word “logos” means reason or plan. While the etymology of the Japanese word ikigai reveals that “iki” means life and “gai” means value.

What are the 4 components of ikigai?

  1. Passion: Find something you love
  2. Mission: Find something the world needs
  3. Vocation: Find something you are good at
  4. Profession: Find something you can get paid for

How do I know if I have ikigai?

Ask yourself the following question: Do I wake up with joy? If the answer is “Yes!”, then you have ikigai because a person without reason to wake up in the morning is an unhappy person. It’s the meaning in life that brings joy and happiness.

What are the rules of ikigai?

The 10 rules of Ikigai are:

  1. Stay active. Don’t retire;
  2. Take it slow;
  3. Don’t fill your stomach: Hara Hachi Bu – the 80% rule;
  4. Surround yourself with good friends;
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday;
  6. Smile;
  7. Reconnect with nature;
  8. Give thanks – Be Grateful;
  9. Live in the moment;
  10. and of course, follow your ikigai.

Why should I read Ikigai?

Because life without meaning is no life. Once you’ve found your purpose in life, you’ll automatically adopt the right perspective, and become a more positive, peaceful person.

Who is the author of Ikigai?

The authors of Ikigai are japanophile Héctor García and award-winning inspirational writer Francesc Miralles.

Is Ikigai worth the hype?

Ikigai is certainly worth the “hype”, all knowledge that can change your life for the better is worth your time. Just open the book, and you’ll discover that there is nothing more precious than a purposeful life.


References

Schulenberg S. et al. (2008). Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training: Logotherapy for clinical practice, 45 (4), 447-463.

Sone T. et al. (2008). Psychosom Med: Sense of life worth living (ikigai) and mortality in Japan: Ohsaki Study, 70(6):709-715

Okuzono S.S. et al. (2022). The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific: Ikigai and subsequent health and wellbeing among Japanese older adults: Longitudinal outcome-wide analysis, vol. 21


What is ikigai and how can it change my life?

Ikigai: The Japanese Concept Of Finding Purpose In Life And How This Age-Old Ideology Can Help You Find Happiness

What Is Logotherapy?

Finding Meaning With Logotherapy

BBC: Ikigai, A Japanese concept to improve work and life

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