Ikigai: A Japanese Concept to Enhance Work, Life, and Sense of Worth

By Author: Simone Jonker
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The Japanese concept of ‘ikigai’ can make life worthwhile by helping you discover your reason for being. (Image: via Unsplash / CC0 1.0)

Everyone has the potential to live a magical and purposeful life. However, there are times when you may feel that you have lost your “spark.” How do you regain that energy that leads to success and happiness? Well, the ancient Japanese devised the perfect formula that can help anyone realize their ikigai, or “reason for being.”

The Japanese are well-known for their longevity. Is it perhaps because they were able to derive a formula to follow from patterns found in nature?  To find your ikigai, you need to look within your heart and mind, and ask yourself some key questions.

Four core questions

To unlock your ikigai, you need to get in touch with your passion by asking: “What do I love?” Discover your vocation in life by asking: “What am I good at?” Find your profession by asking: “What can I be paid for?” And identify your mission by asking: “What does the world need?”

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)
Ask yourself the four core questions to unlock your ikigai. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Ikigai is when your four fundamental components of life — passion, vocation, profession, and mission — all meet. Ikigai is only complete if the goal is service to the community. Now, you may start working on your questions and see how they fit in ikigai’s fundamental components.

It could happen that three of the criteria overlap. For instance, your passion (what you are good at plus what you love) and your mission (what you love plus what the world needs). Then, you have “pleasure and abundance, but no riches.” Ikigai is when all four criteria are satisfied.

The five pillars

It is much easier to feel ikigai when you are socially connected. Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, advises you to focus on what he labels the five pillars, which are: starting small, accepting yourself, connecting with the world around you, seeking out small joys, and being in the here and now.

Keep these five points in mind upon waking and during the first couple of hours of the day to help familiarize your brain with this kind of mindset.

Find your ikigai

While keeping the five pillars in mind, take 10 minutes to ask yourself the four core questions. Be true to yourself and see what comes up. Take your time to ponder these questions and your answers to them. You could write them down in a journal just to see how your answers change over time. Go over them after a month or even throughout the course of a year.

(Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Write your answers down to the four core questions in a journal to see how they change over time. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Your unique life path and mission are your ikigai. It’s illustrated very wonderfully in this quote by Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Perseverance is the key to unlocking your personal ikigai and revealing your true potential!

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