Ikigai, Nunchi, and other concepts you need for a happy life | campus.sg

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In a time of uncertainty, it’s no surprise that many people are saddened, angry, and confused. This is also a time when many will turn philosophical in order to put some sense into their lives. Many cultures have their own ideologies – or concepts – for living well. Here are some concepts that you may or may not already know, and how you can apply them to your daily life.


Ikigai is a Japanese concept that answers the “what is the purpose of life?” question – it essentially means “reason for being” and refers to having a direction or purpose in life to make it worthwhile living.

Most of us equate the purpose of life is to achieve success in our careers and in making a living, but we often define personal desires – like our passion, hobbies, and beliefs – as something separate. However, the concept of ikigai ties all of these together, because a person isn’t just defined by one aspect of their lives. We need balance.

In short, ikigai helps you balance your professional and personal ideals in your day-to-day life to bring meaning to even the most banal of your tasks.

Your ikigai is at the intersection of the four key elements of your life:

  • Passion: What you love
    Forget about money and other people’s opinions – this is something you truly enjoy doing, and have a passion and enthusiasm for.
  • Mission: What the world needs
    Being selfless and making a social, moral, and humanitarian contribution brings a special kind of satisfaction to your life.
  • Vocation: What you’re good at
    We all have our own unique abilities and talents, usually based on our experience, qualifications, and personality.
  • Profession: What you can get paid for
    A lot of people tend to use this aspect to direct their paths in life, but this should not be the sole reason. Find meaning in your chosen profession by combining with other aspects outlined above.

Ikigai teaches us that a crucial part of life is understanding the self, and the role we play in our society.

Hygge (and Lagom)

Hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) is a Danish word for a mood, feeling or moment of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. It applies whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary.

According to Visit Denmark, hygge includes creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people, enjoying the warm glow of candlelight, or sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

via PXFuel

This mood of coziness perfectly harmonises with the Swedish concept, lagom, meaning “adequate,” “just right,” or “in balance” – a moderation we need in life. Here are some tips to enjoy a bit of hygge in your life.

  1. Spend quality time with friends and family.
  2. Avoid multi-tasking.
  3. Remove stressors.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing.
  5. Bring the great outdoors indoors with plants.
  6. Soften and simplify your home with hygge decor.
  7. Relish in quiet company or tranquil solitude.


Nunchi is a traditional Korean concept of situational awareness – essentially, an “art of understanding what people are thinking and feeling.” It’s a quality held by those who are able to read the room and react accordingly.

“Nunchi” roughly translates to “eye-measure”, which basically means sizing up the overall atmosphere of a situation, and Korean children are taught that at a young age so they don’t overstep their boundaries.

In essence, nunchi involves making assessments, in any given context, about the relationships and hierarchies within a group and the overall mood by observing who is speaking, listening, interrupting, apologising, or rolling their eyes. This knowledge lets them know how to behave accordingly.

This skill is applicable to just about every social setting, from a wedding to a job interview. In Korea, good nunchi is judged by speed – a quick nunchi is the ability to read cues intuitively in order to process social information.