What is Ikigai?
Having worked in the people business/human resource management for decades, I know firsthand that many, MANY people simply HATE their job. My background is in the corporate world and I have witnessed just how stressed and empty individuals can become when they spend their days, weeks, months and years doing work that brings them an income, but no joy or purpose.
We have been led to believe that “work” is something you do whether you like it or not, and the rest of your life is the “stuff” you can actually enjoy. But think about how much time we spend at our jobs and careers! A third or more!!!
Are we REALLY expected to spend one-third or more of our lives doing unfulfilling work that brings only stress or boredom instead of joy and meaning?!
Introducing Ikigai: A Tool to Find Your Joy and Purpose
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that helps people find meaning and purpose in their life. And some researchers believe this concept is what has resulted in longevity for the people of Okinawa, Japan. In fact, National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner suggests that because of ikigai, Okinawans have little to no desire to ever retire, but instead spend their entire lives doing work that has meaning and purpose! Can you imagine how lovely life would feel if every day you got out of bed with joy, meaning and purpose!! Of course you would want to live to 100 and longer!
Okay, so what is ikigai exactly and how can you use it to your benefit?
Ikigai is believed to have evolved from the traditional Japanese health and wellness medicine principals. In Japan, they believe (and have for thousands for thousands of years!) that one’s physical well-being is entirely dependent on their mental and emotional well-being and sense of purpose in life. Gee, what a novel concept!
Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano has stated that ikigai is “a state of wellbeing that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys, which also brings a sense of fulfillment.”
This is NOT the same thing as a life that merely brings one pleasure. It is deeper than that. Making a ton of money can bring you pleasure. Ikigai focuses on a life WELL LIVED.
Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, translates ikigai as simply meaning “a reason to get up in the morning” or, more poetically, “waking up to joy.”
Don’t you just love that? Waking up to joy!!
Now you might be thinking, “But what does this have to do with my job or career? If I want to wake up to joy I would have to win the lottery so I never had to work again!”
The wonderful thing about the concept of ikigai is that is does NOT refer to your own personal joy, but rather, it is work that brings you joy while at the same time serves others and society at large. It’s about the greatest win/win you can imagine!
And yes, the Japanese believe that EVERY human being has an ikigai, meaning their intersection of passion, talent, and potential to benefit others. You simply have to find what that intersection is.
Finding Your Ikigai
To find your ikigai, you’ve got to think about four specific areas of your life and where and how they overlap. These four areas are:
- What you love – What activities bring you the most joy and make you feel ALIVE?
- What you’re good at – What skills or talents do you possess?
- What the world needs – This can mean the actual world at large 0and it can also mean your local community and any other group in between.
- How these 3 can earn you an income – Now to find the balance of all three areas. You may be passionate about rock climbing, and you may be excellent at it, but it’s doubtful that anyone will pay you to do it. But then again, they may! To be safe, it’s best to focus on the skills you possess that make you feel alive that are in demand and help people in same way.
What are some examples of living an Ikigai kind of life?
Think about someone who has a real passion for cooking. They have had a knack for cooking or baking since they were young and it is an activity they enjoy immensely. And just about everyone is willing to pay for a delicious meal someone else cooked. Feeding others delicious food made with love is one terrific example of the intersection of Ikigai.
There are many people who have always had a love and passion for animals. And they are also very good at science and good handling animals. These people may become veterinarians or marine biologists or zoologists, combining their passion, love, skills and getting paid for it while helping the world at large.
If you have trouble recognizing the four areas of your life, here are some questions to ask to get your mind thinking in the right direction:
- What did you enjoy doing as a child?
- What are some of your favorite hobbies currently?
- What do you think are your talents?
- What would other people say your strengths are? (Go ahead and ask your friends and family!)
- Who or what inspires you?
- What is something that annoys or frustrates you? (this may help you identity what the world needs. If you are pained others might be as well!)
- What service or product could you offer others that combines your passion, skills and concerns?
Here is a helpful image I found online that will help guide you on finding your own Ikigai intersection.
Spend some time thinking about this. When you feel the answer in your gut, you are brought to tears, when you have an inner sense of peace, you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, you have found your Ikigai, your own meaning and sense of purpose.
You can also pray or meditate and ask the ministry of angels, your archangels, your guides and runners to show you a sign.
“I’m taking this time to create my day and affecting the quantum field. As is fact, the observers are watching over me, and there is a spiritual aspect to myself. Show me a sign today that you paid attention to anyone of the things I create, and bring that in a way that I won’t expect, so, I’m surprised in my ability to experience these things, and make sure it is in a way that I have no doubt that it has come from you.”
Life is way too short not to find your Ikigai.