What’s your Ikigai?


There are two things that most of us want. The first is a long healthy life. That’s why we eat broccoli and diet and buy gym memberships. That’s why my wife bought me a Fitbit for Christmas. You wear it like a watch, and it tells you how far you walked today. A Fitbit buzzes you if you haven’t moved in awhile. It says things like, “You have eaten 14 Twinkies today. You have been to the fridge forty-two times. That’s 1,200 steps. At this rate you will weigh 317 pounds by April.” So don’t get one. The second thing most earthlings share in common is that we want our lives to count for something. And researchers are now discovering that living on purpose may be the key to a long and healthy life. Let me explain.


On an island in Okinawa, Japan, lives a group of people who enjoy the longest average lifespans in the world. These Okinawans live about seven years longer than the average American. What’s more, they are five times more likely to reach the age of 100 than the rest of us. What’s their secret? Well, they eat lots of veggies and stay active. They grow gardens and get lots of sunshine. They also have strong social networks. But most fascinating is the Okanawan concept of ikigai. Ask any 100-year-old what their ikigai is and they’ll tell you. Roughly translated ikigai means, “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”


For one 100-year-old man it’s catching enough fish to feed his family. For a 102-year-old lady, it’s her great great great granddaughter. When asked how she feels holding the little girl, she responds, “It’s like jumping into heaven.” No matter what their age, these people learn to live each day with purpose. Years ago I was too busy to consider what my purpose was. I was running like a gerbil on a wheel. No wonder the joy was missing. Without purpose, life is pointless. It wasn’t until a near death experience that I asked, “What’s my reason to get up in the morning?” Is it to make enough money so I can retire in comfort, move to Florida, golf, and eat breakfast at 10 AM? Or am I created for something more? Paul thought so. In Ephesians 2:10 he wrote, “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ravi Zacharias once said, “When you find your definitions in God, you find the very purpose for which you were created.”


What is my ikigai? My purpose? For me, it’s loving God and loving people. Investing in that which lasts brings satisfaction and joy because we were made for this. And now my Fitbit is buzzing again. It’s says I have to go 3,000 steps to meet today’s goal. I think I’ll see if my wife would like to walk with me. To the donut shop.

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