Diverse Definitions of Ikigai

Ikigai is unique to each individual; that's why when Waki Kamino asked ikigai experts for their definition of it, they offered a diverse range of interpretations. Some perceived it as a path to self-actualization, while others saw it as a dream or a goal to pursue. For some, it embraces finding joy in life's simple pleasures, and remarkably, even negative experiences can be considered as sources of ikigai.

Ikigai from the perspective of experts

Nick: And this leads to, I guess this question I asked everyone, and I'll ask you later, but how did some of these experts define ikigai? Were there any, not conflict, but were there any sort of definitions that were quite different to each other? Or ones that you thought were a bit unusual?

Waki: Well, I guess Dr. Mathews was saying that ikigai is not self-realization. If I'm not mistaken, I think he was really clear about that. I think the other experts really embrace that it can be self-realization. It can be something, novel, admirable, whatever, like chasing the dreams, getting better things.

But I think a lot of them, especially those who work in the government, or government funded organization, they were more focused on small things, like tiny, happy moments in your life. I like the word that one participant said, I think it was like ‘Ikigai is like a small patchwork collection of little joys.’ I like that.

So yeah, there are different scales they're talking about. But overall, I think most of them kind of embrace the spectrum. And Dr. Hasegawa, I think he mentioned, it's important to not shy away from the negative or painful experiences you have in your life. Because life is, especially with older adults, I think they had the great accumulation of life and, you know, just trying to embrace those negative moments and how they overcome, these can be part of ikigai.

Nick: It’s quite a broad concept that touches on hedonic happiness, I guess, and eudaimonia. And it can be for some people the pursuit of meaningful goals and maybe self-actualization. Or as Ken Mogi describes it as a spectrum. But I did make a mental note thinking, that's a great way to describe it, a patchwork of the things in your life.

Waki: It doesn't make research easier, the fact that it’s so broad. But I think it's fascinating, that they all kind of embrace the room for interpretation. And the shared understanding of this is important, but it doesn't have to be this specific way.