The Japanese believe that everyone has an “ikigai” (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) – a reason for being. And according to the residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa – the world’s longest-living people – finding it is the key to a happier and a more fulfilled life. A combination of the Japanese words “iki”, which translates to “life,” and “gai”, which is used to describe value or worth, ikigai is all about discovering happiness in life through purpose. In their international best-selling book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”, the authors Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia interviewed the residents of the Japanese village Ogimi, Okinawa, which has the highest percentage of 100-year-olds and one of the world’s Blue Zones. The book revealed the secrets to their longevity and happiness: how they eat, how they move, how they work, how they collaborate and how a sense of community is fostered, and ofcourse, their best-kept secret – how they find the ikigai that brings happiness and satisfaction to their lives.
So who does not want to find happiness and satisfaction in everyday work and life? We all want!! Unlike conventional ideas of success, everyone has an “ikigai”, no matter their job or education level. It is not about achieving what other people have but about finding your own happiness and satisfaction. But how do you discover your own ikigai? Having a strong sense of ikigai is basically finding that one place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect. This balance is found when your passions and abilities converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for. Ikigai is what gets you up every morning and keeps you going.
Ikigai enables individuals to address aspects of work and life through a framework that comprises of the four P’s. You can draw a similar Venn diagram as shown in the picture and place your answers in the different circles. The intersecting point of all the circles is the place where you will find your ikigai. It is easiest to think about Ikigai as an intersection, the common ground between:
- What you are good at (Purpose)
- What you can get paid for (Profit)
- What the world needs (Problems)
- What you love (Passion)
1. Purpose: What you are good at
Finding your purpose basically means finding out what you are good at, your talents or skillsets. Reflect on the unique contributions you have made so far, whether at work, in life or previously during school or university. What are you best at or for what do your near and dear ones come to you the most? What is it that you do better than most of the people?
2. Profit: What you can get paid for
This question is about the things that enable you to earn money, that provide you and your loved ones with a financial security in life, whether you enjoy them or not. Lately, have you been paid to do what? Would you like to be paid for doing something else that you love doing?
3. Problems: What the world needs
This question is meant to help you out what you can give to the world, your culture or your family. What are the solutions that you can provide to the problems that exist and impact someone’s life in a positive way. You may want to answer questions like what problems in your society would you like to solve immediately? Are people willing to part with their resources to buy what you are selling?
4. Passion: What you love
The last element is passion or doing the work that you love. This question is about figuring out what you find fun, interesting and motivating. You may feel passionate about a particular area of work or job. You may want to ask yourself, what would you do if you did not have to worry about making money? What could you enthusiastically talk about for hours on end?
An ikigai, in some ways, is like a compass. Once you have arrived at a working idea about your ikigai, it is time to take some action and navigate both your life and career towards long-term happiness and satisfaction.