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This is a way of life in Japan, where people work towards what they love doing, and do that with passion. Iki means life, and gai means ‘to be worthwhile’; loosely translated, Ikigai means the work, activity or hobby that gets an individual up in the morning.
It's something you live for: If you have a great time when you are working, it could be ikigai. If you have a family you love and you can do something for, it's also ikigai.
The term was initially mentioned in the 14th Century and was then seen in the novel Kokoro (The Heart Of Things) by Natsume Soseki in 1912. As Japan emerged from an era of isolation and started embracing the international, industrial world, the new way of life started to interest the population.
The devastation of World War II brought the era of growth, known as the ‘economic miracle’, where the people of the country were filled with new energy, and had the focus and drive to achieve the impossible.
The true meaning of ikigai is not just doing your job with complete dedication and losing your work-life balance, but the freedom to choose what you really love and move towards the same.
Ikigai without the freedom to choose would be just another story told to people to deceive and exploit them.
In the last 20 years, there has been a shift in Japan towards more awareness and freedom to seek one’s desired role. Job hopping, once considered Taboo, is gaining acceptance.
The young generation holds the key to untangle and repair the connections between true ikigai and the work they do so that the work-life balance is enhanced.
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