ikigai: (n) a reason for being; what gets you up in the morning

The concept of ikigai comes from a Japanese short story:


In a small village in Japan, a woman laid in a coma on her deathbed.

In her mind, she suddenly felt a force transporting her up into heaven. She was now standing, alone, before the voice of her ancestors.

Who are you?” the voice said to her.

I am the wife of the mayor,” she replied, as she was used to saying back on Earth.

I did not ask whose wife you are but who you are.

Slightly puzzled, the woman paused, then said, “I am the mother of four children.

I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.

I am a school teacher.

I did not ask what your profession is but who you are.

And so it went. No matter what she replied, she was unable to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”

The woman was fast running out of ways to describe herself.

I am a Shinto.

I did not ask what your religion is but who you are.

The woman decided that she needed to take more time to think of the correct answer. She sat down, focused her mind, and thought about who she really was.



I am the one who wakes up each day to care for my family, and nurture the young minds of the children at my school.

With that, just as suddenly as she had come, she was transported out of heaven and back to Earth again.

The next morning she woke at sunrise, feeling a deep sense of meaning and purpose. She made her children’s lunches and planned fun and meaningful lessons for her students that day.

The woman had discovered her ikigai.