Discovering your Ikigai: a path to purposeful living

5 min read
Louise halimi

In a world filled with distractions and rapid changes, the search for purpose and fulfillment has become increasingly crucial. One concept that has gained attention and reverence for its ability to guide individuals toward a meaningful life is Ikigai. Originating from the Japanese culture, Ikigai encapsulates the essence of finding joy, satisfaction, and purpose in everyday life. Understanding this concept can be a transformative journey towards aligning your passions, talents, and mission.

Unveiling the essence of Ikigai

Ikigai, pronounced as "ee-kee-guy," can be translated as reason for being. The ikigai is this thing that gets you out of bed every morning, your reasons to live.

Discovering your Ikigai is akin to finding your purpose, a guiding light that assists in navigating life's challenges.

What is your purpose?

Addressing this query often involves using a widely-known diagram as a tool. While helpful, it's essential to note that adhering strictly to all its elements isn't obligatory. Ikigai isn't confined to a grand, fixed aspiration to attain.

Furthermore, Ikigai isn't static; it's adaptable and can transform over time. Its philosophy encourages embracing the present, relishing the journey instead of fixating solely on reaching a destination.

This diagram serves as a bridge, connecting our individuality and requirements with those of the environment: be it people, nature, or society. Its purpose is to identify how we can harmonize with the world and how the world can reciprocate, enabling us to derive benefits or recognition from this synergy.

The diagram represents the convergence of four essential elements:

1. What you love
Ikigai begins with identifying your passions, the activities that make your heart sing, things you enjoy doing immensely. This could be anything from painting and writing to cooking or playing a musical instrument.

2. What you're good at
Recognize your strengths and skills. What are you naturally inclined towards? This pillar emphasizes skills and talents that you possess or have the potential to develop further.

3. What the world needs
Contributing to something larger than yourself holds immense value. It involves identifying the needs around you: be it in your community, industry, or society at large and finding ways to address them.

4. What you can be paid for
This pillar encompasses the practical aspect of sustaining yourself financially. It involves finding a way to monetize your skills, passions, and contributions to maintain a livelihood.

The Origins and Significance of Ikigai

Ikigai finds its origins in Okinawa, Japan, a land celebrated for the enduring health and vibrancy of its residents. This concept is thought to play a pivotal role in fostering well-being and longevity among individuals. Studies conducted on centenarians from Okinawa reveal remarkably low incidences of heart disease and dementia, further highlighting the potential impact of Ikigai on health.

Beyond mere job satisfaction, Ikigai embodies a holistic approach to living—a pursuit of purpose and fulfillment in everyday existence. Recent research has shown a correlation between finding a sense of purpose or meaning in life and reduced chronic inflammation. This underlines the profound health benefits associated with embracing an Ikigai-driven lifestyle.

The relevance of discovering your Ikigai

Understanding your Ikigai brings numerous benefits, including:

- Increased fulfillment: by aligning your daily activities with your passions and strengths, you're likely to feel more fulfilled and content.
- Enhanced resilience: having a clear sense of purpose can fortify your resilience, helping you navigate challenges and setbacks.
- Improved health and longevity: studies suggest that individuals who live with a sense of purpose tend to have better health outcomes and live longer.

Apply the methodology is a path to discovery

1. Reflect on your passions:
Identify activities that bring you pure joy and satisfaction. What makes you lose track of time? List them out without judgment.

2. Assess your skills and strengths:
What are you good at? Consider both your natural talents and the skills you've developed over time. Seek feedback from peers or mentors.

3. Explore the needs around you:
Reflect on the problems or needs in your community, society, or industry that resonate with you. Where do you think you could make a meaningful impact?

4. Evaluate potential professions:
Consider how you could translate your passions, skills, and the identified needs into a viable profession or income source.

Concluding your Ikigai journey

After exploring each pillar, reflect on their intersections. Look for the overlaps between what you love (Passion), what you're good at (Profession), what you can be paid for (Vocation) and what the world needs (Mission).

  • Passion: learn, create, nature, musical, DIY…
  • Profession: consultancy, watchmaker, designer…
  • Mission: sustainable development, health care provider… 
  • Vocation: teach, protect, help people, promote empathy…

Then try to link the intersection:

  • Passion-Profession: transmit knowledge
  • Profession-Vocation: sustainable activity
  • Vocation-Mission: inspirational education
  • Mission-Passion: teach sustainable development

Your Ikigai lies at the convergence of these elements: a place where your passions, talents, contribution to society, and financial sustenance align.

The variance between your present life and your Ikigai may present varying levels of challenge in adapting one's lifestyle. It's important to remain open-minded, considering a transition phase or incorporating part-time activities. Even small adjustments can wield a significant positive impact on your daily routine.

Once we become aware of our Ikigai, it's important to ensure we stay on course and keep progressing.
Embracing your Ikigai is a continual process of self-discovery and learning. It's not a destination but a guiding principle that evolves with you. As you embark on this journey, remember that finding your Ikigai is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.