Searching for meaning in your life? This Japanese concept can help you find it
A very useful Venn diagram illustrates this concept perfectly.
In the post-modernist, Western world, religious life has decreased substantially, patriotism has been replaced with a widespread distrust of the government, and getting ahead has become exceedingly difficult. As a result, more and more people are falling victim to ennui. This dreadful feeling of bitter disillusionment stems from the loss of meaning in their lives.
A lack of purpose can increase the risk of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, resulting in poorer sleep, worsening health, and in extreme cases, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide. Some have turned to the East, most recently, to the ancient Japanese concept of ikigai, which means, roughly, “to live the realization one hopes for." Another interpretation, “that which makes life worth living." Take note that there's no exact English translation.
Iki means “life," whereas gai means “value" or “worth." Gai comes from the word kai meaning “shell." This refers back to the Heian period (794 to 1185), when shells were considered valuable. We can interpret ikigai as finding value in one's life or discovering one's purpose.
In the West, self-help gurus and movements of one flavor or another have come and gone, and in the wake of each, though often lighter in the pocket, few of their participants find real solace. Perhaps rather than happiness, which is generally momentary and fleeting, we should seek a purposeful life. Exploring the concept of ikigai and the questions that come with it, can help one find a solid purpose and through this, contentment and drive.
The whole concept has been boiled down to four questions:
1) What do you love?
2) What are you good at?
3) What does the world need from you?
4) What can you get paid for?
If you're retired, you may not have to worry about what you can be paid for, so you can delete that one and focus on the remaining three. The idea is not only to find your purpose but the proper balance between all aspects surrounding it. Another consideration, one's ikigai doesn't affect the individual alone.
For the Japanese, the concept has a social element. It's about getting comfortable with your role in your family, job, and society. It's traditionally split along gender lines. While men usually associate their ikigai with their work and career, women (at least traditionally) associate it with motherhood and their role in the family. And even though ikigai has recently become the latest New Age buzzword in the West, this doesn't make it any less effective for those who find themselves at a crossroads, with no sign to guide them.
Ikigai author Hector Garcia told The Independent that it all snaps into place when you get engrossed in a task and achieve that flow state. “Have you ever been so absorbed in a task that you forget to drink and eat?" Garcia asked. “What type of task was it? Notice those moments when you enter flow, and your ikigai might be embedded in those moments."
Author Dan Buettner told the BBC in order to find your ikigai, you should write three lists. The first is your values, the second things enjoy doing, and the last, things you are good at. “The cross section of the three lists is your ikigai," he said.
Okinawans enjoy great longevity, which they partly credit to their belief in ikigai. Credit: Getty Images.
Lecturer and anthropologist Iza Kavedžija writes in The Conversation, that through interviews with older Japanese, she found that they regarded ikigai as the mastery of something. It was closely related to the phrase “chanto suru," or doing things properly. The concept of ikigai is strongly related to the Japanese island of Okinawa, whose inhabitants enjoy remarkable longevity. Many centenarians can be found there, and some credit finding their ikigai with a long, healthy life.
One limitation is, if one sees their work as their ikigai, they may neglect their family, friends, and hobbies, which are just as important and fulfilling. Moreover, the Japanese themselves are finding it difficult to achieve ikigai. According to a 2010 survey, just 31% of Japanese respondents said they'd found theirs.
And if you achieve yours, is that the end? Professor Gordon Matthews of Chinese University in Hong Kong told The Telegraph, those who have a clear sense of ikigai can achieve higher aspects of understanding beyond it, such as "ittaikan" or a sense of oneness with one's social role, and "jiko jitsugen" or self-realization.
To learn more about ikigai, click here:
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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