What do you wake up for?

With the help of Nescafe's Red Mug campaign, we explore the meaning of the Japanese phrase 'Ikigai'.

June 23, 2015

The people of Okinawa, Japan, are known to live long and happy lives. They claim it is because they know their reason for waking up every morning, which they call their ‘Ikigai’, which translates as ‘what you wake up for’.

Based on this philosophy, Nescafe launched its Red Mug campaign in the Middle East, and enlisted Michael Kouly, a World Bank Fellow and journalist, to explain why it is important to each have our own Ikigai. 

Do you wake up excited to start your day or just hoping that you can crawl back into bed? What is missing? What do you need to do to feel truly alive? What unleashes the happy and creative energy within you?

We spend our entire lives caught up in the hustle and bustle of work, family and obligations that we tend to ‘lose’ ourselves. Instead of doing what we love, we often convince ourselves that "it is okay or the norm for most people to not enjoy their job” and we avoid the risks of a thrilling life. This may keep us safe, but it will also make our lives quite plain.

You are pure potential, and it is up to you, yes YOU, to decide how you want to feel each morning when you wake up and how to live your life. You will never be repeated. There will never be another like you, with your genes, looks, experiences and your past, present, mind or your heart. NOBODY.

So what can you do that nobody else can do in the same way? What makes you unique in your personality or skills? Once you find this out, you can begin to understand what it is that you wake up for. Your reason for starting each new day positively is about knowing what it is that makes you unique, and use it to know your purpose and ultimately to contribute to the well being of the world around you.

Individuals that wake up each morning knowing their purpose are scientifically proven to not only lead happier lives, but to also live longer and be richer emotionally and often financially. 

Purpose is about reconnecting with yourself, finding what truly makes you come alive, and doing it. Having a purpose acts as a daily energy boost and places things into perspective. Individuals who know their reasons for waking up each morning are more likely to take smart risks if they are assured that whatever they do is in the service of their purpose. For them, the direction they are heading in is clear.  

Purpose is not a selfish endeavor, it is about injecting meaning in what you do and using your special set of skills to better your life and the community around you, and enjoy the rewards you reap as a result. This does not necessarily mean acts of altruism, but can range from sharing, for example, your beautiful voice with the world or your unique and analytical mind.

Finding what it is that you wake up for can be challenging at first. The key to finding your purpose is to always be true to who you are. A few questions you can ask yourself are: What makes you so enthusiastic that you could spend your life doing it for free? What makes you, YOU? What did you use to love as a child? What was your preferred subject at school? What childhood dreams are still alive in you?

Open yourself up to the process, and enjoy it. Take the time to think about the answers and to determine if they resemble the life that you are currently living. The next time that you wake up in the morning, ask yourself one question: Am I making use of my uniqueness? Am I being ME?

Wake up and start LIVING!

Michael Kouly is a World Bank Fellow, senior international executive, writer, journalist & a PhD scholar. For more details on the Red Mug campaign visit nescafe.com