What is the first thing that comes to your mind upon hearing the word ikigai? For most people, it might be that one blue book, which is popular worldwide. The book on Japanese secrets to a long and happy life. But what is the actual ikigai meaning? Well, many people have tried to explore and understand the meaning of this word from different perspectives. However, this Japanese word, when translated to English, means a reason for being. It refers to something that serves as a reason for living or something that awakens a sense of purpose in an individual.Before digging deeper into the topic, it is important to learn the correct ikigai pronunciation. It does not go icky-guy or eye-key-guy, as most of the readers call it. The Japanese term is pronounced as ee-kee-guy.Meaning of IkigaiThe meaning of ikigai is a reason for being or a life worth living. The Japanese people believe that everyone has an ikigai, the reason that makes them jump out of the bed every morning to live life. The term is divided into two parts that give ikigai meaning - iki, which means life and gai, which means ones realisation of their hopes and expectations.There are several other definitions given to gai. It is an effect, a worth, a fruit, a benefit, a result, a hope or an expectation. Life becomes tough on people who have not realised their purpose. While there are some more people who find peace and happiness wherever they go. They find joy and satisfaction in doing small things and these individuals have found their hobby in the career they are pursuing. How do they do it? The answer is simple. They have discovered their ikigai by allowing the self-possibilities to blossom and finding happiness in a busy life.Origin of IkigaiAkihiro Asewaga, a clinical psychologist, associate professor, and co-author of a Japanese research paper dating back to 2001, noted that ikigai is a part of the everyday Japanese language. The word originated from the Heian period that existed between 784 to 1185. He wrote, Gai comes from the word kai (which means shell in Japanese) which were deemed highly valuable, and from there ikigai derived as a word that means value in living. In short, according to the co-author, ikigai is value in working.Overworking is common in Japan. However, in a 2010 survey conducted by Central Research Services, only 31per cent of the 2000 Japanese people considered work as their ikigai. Thus, ikigai has nothing to do with income.The concept of ikigai came into popularity with Dan Buettners TED talk about his research on blue zones. This term was a blue zone in Okinawa, Japan. Blue zones describe the longevity lifestyle of the oldest people on Earth. These people have found their way around time, money, purpose, diet, community and activity.Why is Ikigai Important?Those who have understood the meaning of ikigai and discovered ways to embrace this concept might know why it is necessary to live. For the other, here is a simple description of the ikigai diagram to understand its importance.The diagram consists of four ikigai circles containing four questions. These circles overlap with each other to describe an individuals passion, mission, profession, and vocation. You can only find your life purpose after contemplating all four circles. These questions in the ikigai Venn diagram ask whether you are doing,● Something that you love● Something that the world needs● Something you are good at● Something you can be paid forIf anything from these is not included in ones life, there is a possibility that:● You may feel satisfied, but not impactful● You may feel fulfilled, but financially strained● You may be excited at first, but struggle with motivation later on● You may feel comfortable, yet unfulfilledThe journey to find self-possibility can be tough yet adventurous. The moment you find your ikigai, you can realise your worth and benefit from it.Whyis Ikigai Popular?Ikigai is popular because it provides a reason for happiness and longevity. It has been adopted in western culture as a way to discover the most meaningful career, but the Japanese concept is not limited to that. It helps an individual to become more positive from within, motivates them to feel at peace with themselves and their life, and enables them to focus on their peace of mind and finding a will to live.Ikigai says that positivity from within is awakened only when a person finds a purpose in sight and discovers a healthy lifestyle and the correct perspective. It has popularised the need of bringing a balance between ones needs, desires, ambitions and satisfactions. It also reminds you to stop for a moment in the hustle and bustle to live in the present without clinging to something that happened in the past and letting go of worry for the future. To become happy, you do not need to be drenched in luxury or live the life that is popular on social media. A simple life is enough.Steps to Discover Your IkigaiMieko Kamiya, a Japanese researcher, found that most individuals have one special force or a specific focus that leads them on the path of discovering their ikigai meaning. This force might be tied to the past, the present, or the future, and it can be bound to many things, including● Health● Memory● Hobby● Family or Relatives● Experience● Relationships● Friends● Imagination● Future expectations● Social circle● MoneyWhile some of these can be sour memories, they can bring a lot of motivation and strength to the person. All these things bring positive feelings, which establish:● Self-realisation and the willingness to live● Sense of fulfillment in daily life● The root of motivation to work● Sense of existence● Sense of control● Sense of purposeHow to use these sources to attain what one requires? It can be done by following the ikigai chart mentioned above. By asking the four questions to oneself every day and walking towards finding the answers without breaking a sweat.Steps to Embrace Your IkigaiKen Mogi, a neuroscientist, mentioned five ways that are proven helpful for every individual who is trying to embrace their ikigai.1. Start SmallThe first step is to follow the Japanese philosophy of Kodawari, which means commitment. It is the pursuit to attain perfection in everything one does. Most of the Japanese know that it is not easy to become perfect, but even with limited resources, they show diligence, patience and attention to bring out efficiency and innovation in everything they do.2. Release YourselfThe second step is to accept yourself as you are. According to Ken, happiness can only be found when one allows their true self to flourish and shine.3. Live in Harmony and SustainabilityThe third step is finding living in harmony and sustainability, which means, pursuing dreams and desires while considering the sustainability of ones social and natural environment.4. Find Joy in the Small ThingsThe fourth step is finding happiness in the smallest of things to awaken the ikigai. It can be the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction one feels after taking a sip of hot coffee or tea at the end of a tiring day or going on a walk near the river.5. Be in the Here and NowThe fifth and last step is to live in the present. It allows the individual to be carefree and calmer.Challenges You Might Face While Discovering Your IkigaiFinding and embracing the ikigai is not an easy task. There is a probability for the person to question themselves but the key is moving forward while healing to reveal the best self. Following are the two challenges faced by people walking on the path of discovering ikigai meaning:1. Feeling overwhelmedIt is completely normal to feel overwhelmed with emotions. If it becomes super tough on a day, ask for support.2. Feeling like there is less timeTime can be managed as per ones need. Stretch and organize the things on the to-do list as per the needs. Wake up an hour early in the morning to work on hobbies, or listen to informational podcasts while traveling to work.ConclusionStay active, take it easy, smile, have good friends in the circle, have a glow-up, be grateful, reconnect with nature and live in the moment. Follow these teachings and ikigai will become a guide for happiness and peace.FAQsHow do you identify ikigai?Ikigai can be found in the smallest of daily incidents and the biggest part of ones life - like work, relationships or nature.What is the opposite of ikigai?The opposite of ikigai is hygge, which means living a slow-paced life, focusing on self-care and taking time out for yourself. Ikigai focuses on finding the purpose of life.What are the five pillars of ikigai?The five pillars of ikigai are: starting small, releasing yourself, harmony and sustainability, the joy of little things and being in the here and now.Who introduced ikigai?Ikigai was introduced by the Japanese psychiatrist Mieko Kamiya, in her book On the Meaning of Life.What are the four components of ikigai?The four components of ikigai are finding what you love, what youre good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.