Ikigai—Finding Purpose in your Work
Updated: Apr 21
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.” For the purposes of this blog, we'll define it as, our life purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, and that which makes life worth living.
That's some pretty powerful stuff. Where do I get some?
Ikigai is a path, a way of life, a journey, NOT a destination. It wakes you up in the morning and leads you away from a mundane, status quo-driven lifestyle. It empowers you and drives your actions, and your purpose. It’s about spending as much time in flow as possible—doing the things that make you lose all sense of time.
Ikigai is both a personal pursuit and one of benefit to others. Ikigai brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to your life, while also contributing to the good of others. Studies have shown that pursuing your Ikigai leads to a happier, longer life.
Ikigai as a concept is much broader than just our careers, but in Western cultures, that is where we focus it since so much of our time is spent working.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
Ok, Ok, Ok....now we know what it is, how do we find ours and pursue it?
Where do we start?
The first step is to understand who you are and what you stand for. Start thinking about your values, what's important to you and what impact you would like to have on the world.
Ikigai is the intersection of:
Passion: Do what you love
Profession: Do what you are good at
Mission: Do what the world needs
Vocation: Do what you can be paid for
Get your pen and paper ready. Take a sheet of paper and section it off into 4 areas. You will label them with 5 things: What I love, What I am good at, What the world needs, and What I can be paid for, and in the center, Ikigai.
What you love:
Think deeply about what you love doing in relation to your work, your family, volunteer activities, or personal interests and hobbies, Write it down.
What you are good at:
Figuring out what you are good at involves a lot of self-evaluation. This question will help you think about your talents and skills. Before answering, take some time to think about your skills, your strengths, and all the things you are capable of doing well— no matter how big or small. You may need to consider things that others have told you that you are good at, or that others come to you for help with.
What does the world need:
The “world” here might be humanity as a whole, a small community you are in touch with, or anything in between. Think about what your friends, family, and immediate community need. These needs can include just about anything: a product, a service, or something as simple as helping one single person.
What can you be paid to do:
Think about the things you personally can be paid for based on your skills and knowledge.
Now evaluate all of these things. What can you tie together from all 4 areas? As it relates to your career, this is your passion and purpose, AKA your Ikigai.
Here is my example—
What I love:
Helping people become the best version of themselves
Researching and applying research
Having deep conversations
Spending time in nature
Trying new foods/eating good food
Working with animals
Doing creative things
Bringing people together
What the World Needs:
Fewer stray animals-education on how to be a good pet parent
Good handymen-help the elderly
People to listen without judgment and provide a safe place to land
Accessible Environments to grow and develop
What am I good at:
Putting together events
Bringing people together
Finding the truth
Taking care of animals
Anticipating people’s needs
What I can be paid for:
Writing a book, articles, blogs for other people
Basic marketing education and work
Plan events for other people
Open a B&B or restaurant
Taking care of people's pets
Hosting retreats where people can grow and develop in beautiful environments (travel) based around animal conservation (animals) so they can be part of something bigger than themselves (spiritual self-care).
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufrane in Shawshank Redemption
You are living when you are doing something meaningful and positive in your life and you are dying when you are NOT attempting to improve your life.
If you do this little exercise, let me know how it goes. I would love to talk to you about how to start incorporating your ikigai into your life.
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