Theorizing Ikigai or Life Worth Living Among Japanese University Students: A Mixed-Methods Approach
Our understanding of well-being has benefited from cross-cultural and non-Western research. However, culturally unique well-being concepts remain largely under-theorized. To address this gap, our research was aimed at developing and validating a substantive theory of how Japanese university students pursue ikigai or life worth living. To this end, we conducted sequential mixed-methods research. First, we performed a qualitative study guided by grounded theory methodology based on photo-elicitation interview data from 27 Japanese university students. Second, we tested our emerging theory of ikigai with online survey data from 672 Japanese university students by using partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). Our results indicate that students made four distinct actions to pursue ikigai. First, they engaged in an experience they subjectively valued as enjoyable, effortful, stimulating, or comforting. Second, they “diversified” by engaging with multiple values (e.g., enjoyment and comfort) within or across experiences. Third, they balanced competing values (i.e., enjoyment vs. effort, and stimulation vs. comfort). Fourth, they temporarily disengaged from experiences that became overwhelming so they could re-engage with them at a later time. These actions were perceived to result in daily lives being worth living and full of vibrancy. Students also believed these actions were conditioned by understanding what value was important in a certain life condition, and by their ability to act on opportunities for potentially valuable experiences without hesitation. The hypothesized relationships among the above concepts were supported by the subsequent quantitative results. Our findings are discussed in light of the ikigai and eudaimonic well-being literature.
Keywordsikigai Japan Mixed methods Grounded theory Eudaimonic well-being Partial least squares structural equation modeling
This paper was partially supported by a Sasakawa Sports Research Grant (160A3-011) from the Sasakawa Sports Foundation (Japan). We would like to thank Drs. Yumiko Hagi and Eiji Ito, who helped with data collection.
- Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. (1994). Kokumin-seikatsu-ni-kansuru-yoron-chyousa. Retrieved from http://survey.gov-online.go.jp/h06/H06-05-06-01.html. Accessed 12 Feb 2019.
- Central Research Services, Inc. (2012). “Ikigai”-ni-kansuru-yoron-chyousa. Retrieved from http://www.crs.or.jp/backno/No636/6362.htm. Accessed 12 Feb 2019.
- Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2015). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Diener, E., & Suh, E. M. (Eds.). (2000). Culture and subjective well-being. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Hair, J. F., Jr., Hult, G. T. M., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2017). A primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Hasegawa, A., Iimori, H., Hoshi, T., & Kawamura, N. (2007). Construction of ikigai objects scales: Measuring ikigai objects and type of ikigai. Japanese Journal of Psychosomatic Internal Medicine, 11, 5–10.Google Scholar
- Kamiya, M. (1966). Ikigai-ni-tsuite. Tokyo: Misuzu Shyobou.Google Scholar
- Knoop, H. H., & Delle Fave, A. (Eds.). (2013). Well-being and cultures: Perspectives from positive psychology. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Kondo, T. (2003). Koureishya-no-ikigaikan-sokutei-ni-okeru-serufu/ankaringu-sukeeru-no-yuukousei. Rounen Seishinigai Zasshi, 14(3), 339–344.Google Scholar
- Kumano, M. (2012). Ikigai-keisei-no-shinrigaku. Tokyo: Kazama Shyobou.Google Scholar
- Kumano, M. (2013). Ikigai-keisei-moderu-no-sokutei-shyakudo-no-sakusei: Ikigai-purosesu-shyakudo-to-ikigai-jyoutai-shyakudo. The Bulletin of Education, 39, 1–11.Google Scholar
- Mathews, G. (1996). What makes life worth living? How Japanese and Americans make sense of their worlds. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Nishizako, K., & Sakagami, C. (2004). Kagoshima-ni-okeru-jyakunen-sou-no-seikatsu-bunka-chyousa (dai-2-hou): Daigakusei-no-seikatsu-jyoukyou-to-bunka-ni-kansuru-ishiki-to-jittai-chyousa. Kagoshima Kenritsu Tanki Daigaku Chiiki Kenkyuujyo Kenkyuu Nenpou, 35, 39–83.Google Scholar
- Oishi, S. (2009). Shiawase-wo-kagaku-suru: Shinrigaku-kara-wakatta-koto. Tokyo: Shinyoushya.Google Scholar
- Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (2013). Happiness experienced: The science of subjective well-being. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 134–151). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C. (2008). The good life: Positive psychology and what makes life worth living. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://archive.is/m4m1J#selection-1171.0-1171.307. Accessed 12 Feb 2019.
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Shimai, S., Otake, K., Utsuki, N., Ikemi, A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2004). Development of a Japanese version of the Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS), and examination of its validity and reliability. Nihon Koueishi, 51(10), 845–853.Google Scholar
- Tinkler, P. (2013). Using photographs in social and historical research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar