I’ve read and personally explored a lot about purpose over the last few years. For me, it all started with an existential crisis.
Many different inspirational quotes and concepts. Debates over whether we have no purpose in life, if we all have the same purpose, whether you need to search and discover your own purpose, or if you need to create it from scratch.
Through it all, the concept of Ikigai is the one that has stuck with me above everything else.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.”
There are a number of visual interpretations of Ikigai that you can see by doing a simple Google Image Search for Ikigai. You can pick the one that works best for you. Choose your own adventure.
While other approaches to purpose can be limiting or too narrowly focused, Ikigai looks at four things:
- That which you love
- That which you are good at
- That which the world needs
- That which you can be paid for
Some thoughts on Ikigai
I’ve seen some criticism online that the diagram above is simply how Ikigai has been translated by Westerners. The big challenge is the circle for “that which you can be paid for.”
Ikigai may have nothing to do with income. In fact, in a survey of 2,000 Japanese men and women conducted by Central Research Services in 2010, just 31% of recipients considered work as their ikigai. Someone’s value in life can be work – but is certainly not limited to that. (Source)
In Japan, ikigai is a slower process and often has nothing to do with work or income. (Source)
I actually think the reason why this approach is unique is because it’s one of the few that addresses the elephant in the room: money. Until (If) the world is on universal basic income, some amount of money is needed to at least cover your low level needs in the hierarchy of needs.
Other ways to purpose only look at one pillar: “that which you love”
Follow your bliss. — Joseph Campbell
Or two pillars: “that which you love” & “that which the world needs”
Where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet — Frederick Buechner
Other people think you should keep your passions separate from how you make your money.
All I know is that the average career is 80,000 hours long. At 40 hours/week, that’s 2,000 weeks…or 40 years. That’s a long time to spend doing something you don’t love.
So, what do you think? Is purpose discovered or created? Have you tried to answer the four questions of Ikigai? If so, please share in the comments.
Oh, and one more thing…
Although I can’t remember how I initially heard of Ikigai, I do believe that Dan Buettner’s research on the Blue Zones helped bring it into the mainstream:
Slow Living Resources
Also published on Medium.