The one philosophy that really made me reflect was Ikigai.

Last year I took a trip with my family to Japan. Before we went I started to do my research on where to go, places to eat, restaurants to eat at, etc. and in typical fashion my social media algorithms started sending me more information about Japan. One of the posts really intrigued me as it talked about different Japanese concepts for self-improvement.

Some of these concepts have made it into my everyday life like Kaizen which is about making small improvements in our lives which will ultimately make a big impact over time. Others like Kensho (growth through pain), Oubaitori (not comparing yourself to others) and Wabi-Sabi (finding peace in imperfection) were new to me but very powerful as I continue my journey to happiness and contentment.

The one philosophy that really made me reflect was Ikigai.

Ikigai, is a combination of the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live,” and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for”. It is about discovering your purpose in life, about balancing what we love to do, with what we are good at, what the world needs and what we can get paid for. Finding this balance is a strong indicator of psychological health, physiological health, and general wellbeing. That is the essence of ikigai.

Many people fall into the trap of doing something that they are good at and can get paid for. This is just a job. It doesn’t bring passion into our lives, and we don’t have a sense of purpose. Some people go to the other extreme and follow their passion and their skills but unfortunately find that they cannot earn a living from their chosen path so are left to choose something that ‘pays the bills’.

What's your Ikigai?

Finding your ikigai is not easy and I dare say that many will go through their life without even looking for it never mind trying to shape their choices to find their true reason for being.

Is that you?

If it is, what can you do about it?

Finding your ikigai requires self-reflection and experimentation. You should carefully consider and answer four key questions (or circles):

1. What do you love?
2. What does the world need?
3. What can you get paid for?
4. What are you good at?

Are there any activities that cover off multiple questions? If so, you might want to focus on these activities to see how you can complete the question set by going deeper on the areas that you are currently missing.

If an activity is something you don’t love can you think about what aspects of the activity it is that you don’t like and what you can do to make these aspects more enjoyable? Would training to make the tasks easier help? Would doing the task in a different environment solve the problem?
If an activity is something that you are not good at can you specify what aspects you aren’t good at? How do you know that you aren’t good at this task? Perhaps asking other people about how good you are at this task would help provide a different perspective? If it is genuinely a task that you aren’t good at, what can you do to develop skills in this area?

If you don’t think that you can make money from the task perhaps you could research how other people have made money from doing it? Or perhaps the best approach is to consider how you could make money from this activity alongside your current job? How could you profit from your passion?

If you don’t think that the activity is something that the world needs, it is important to think about how you can connect your activity with what the world does need. How might your activity contribute positively to those around you?

Discovering your ikigai means you have found something that is meaningful, sustainable, and fulfilling.

If you are intrigued by this post have a look at the book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralle.