What is Your Ikigai?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” According to Japanese culture, everyone has one, but finding it can take effort. This effort is rewarded though, as discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.

While it is hard to explain Ikigai in western terms, one can get a good feel for the concept as follows:

If what you love is your passion, and what the world needs is your mission, and what you are good at is your vocation, and what you can get paid for is your profession, then your Ikigai is the intersection of all four.

Clear enough?

In their book “Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,” Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles break down the ten rules that can help anyone find their own ikigai.

  1. Stay active and don’t retire
  2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
  3. Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
  4. Surround yourself with good friends
  5. Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
  6. Smile and acknowledge people around you
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Give thanks to anything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive.
  9. Live in the moment
  10. Follow your ikigai

I know, it’s a little redundant to have the 10th rule for how to find your Ikigai be to follow your Ikigai, but I didn’t make the rules (I just copied them.) However, as I read the list I saw a lot I really agree with.

In fact, these all seem like common sense. Keep moving, mentally and spiritually as well as physically. Slow down, not just in terms of your pace, but in terms of your relational experiences. Practice gratefulness and awareness.

And find your Ikigai, your purpose or reason for being. Sounds like a personal mission. So, what does this look like? This original diagram was created by British community activist Marc Winn in 2014:

As a way to visualize the intersection of these four concepts. However, two sets of concepts don’t intersect uniquely in this diagram, what you love & what you get paid for, and what the world needs & what you are good at. Subsequently, David McCandless came up with an enhanced visualization that helps to further explore the ways in which these concepts are interrelated:

I find it interesting that some intersections make something positive – passion, mission etc. But some intersections create a discomforting pinch point i.e. if you’re good at something, it’s what you love and what the world needs, but doesn’t earn you money, you’re “struggling”.

The secret to a long and happy life is not to live in the hope of a great life tomorrow (or even one in eternity.) It is to live intentionally today. What I love is this is possible not only at the individual level, but as a community also.

At Kimray we have a compelling mission that is the reason we “get out of bed” every day. As leaders, it is our responsibility to create opportunity for each team member to connect with this mission and find meaning for themselves. That will be hard to do if we haven’t found our own Ikigai.

What is your reason to enjoy life?