Finding your ikigai
- Discover the practical ways in which you can balance passion, mission, vocation and profession in
order to foster and maintain ikigai in your life.
Get the balance right
If you focus only on your true passion, but cannot make enough money to survive doing that activity,
it will be unsustainable. Similarly, concentrating on what you can be paid well for may bring you
material wealth, but leave you feeling spiritually bereft. And if doing what you are good at doesn't
seem to fit in with what your community and the wider world needs, that can also lead to a sense of
isolation and lack of self-esteem. The ongoing challenge is to find and maintain a personally
satisfying balance between your passion, mission, vocation and profession.
A good starting point on your ikigai journey is to pick a favorite notebook to use for soulstorming
sessions. Compile lists under four headings: What do you love? What does the world need? What
can you be paid for? What are you good at? Scribble down any and all ideas - there are no wrong
answers. This is more than a brainstorming; it requires you to access your deepest desires in your
heart and soul, which the strictures of life may have suppressed. So allow yourself time. Tweak and
add to your lists over a period of days or weeks.
In making four lists of your loves, skills, what you could earn money for and what world needs, you
will see that some of your ideas might fit into two or more categories. This is the kind of cross-
pollination you are looking for. To visualize this better, it is helpful to make your own ikigai Venn
diagram and drop in each entry from your lists. Which things fall at the intersections
between categories? Does anything satisfy all criteria? Most likely there will be unknowns – for
instance, you might love something and have shown some aptitude for it, but whether you could
earn money from it needs more investigation.
On your lists there are bound to be outliers that fit into just one of the four segments of the ikigai
Venn diagram. Say you love sitting in the park watching the world go by, but can't make a case that it
is something the world needs, involves any particular skill or you could be paid for. However,
relaxing in the park regularly may give you time to reflect, think creatively and reinvigorate you. The
importance of what could be described as 'supportive ikigai should not be dismissed.
Let your ideas for new ventures marinate for a while. See which ones remain in your mind and heart
as things you think and feel will be fulfilling. Then it is time to take action and find out if these truly
are your ikigai. Intent is nothing without action. Those of you with few existing commitments or ties
will find it easier to make a handbrake turn in your lives and test out more radical plans. For others it
will necessarily be a more gradual process, but needn't be any less purposeful.
Early in your ikigai quest, strip out the dead wood. Stop doing the things that clearly don't fit into
your new vision for your life, to free up as much time as possible to devote to the main priorities you
have identified. Ring-fence time in your schedule so that you can really focus on your chosen
activities. Only by creating that space to immerse yourself in new pursuits, will you be able to test
properly that your initial instincts were correct.
By shifting your priorities and opening yourself up to novel experiences, your ikigai will reveal itself
to you. This may happen quickly, but it could take many months or years of trial and error. Be
patient and enjoy the odyssey. Just engaging more fully with your inner self - and connecting with
different people who share the same values - will enrich your daily life and strengthen your resolve.
Then when a big decision has to be made, you can act boldly, safe in the knowledge that you are
being completely true to yourself.
Revisit, refresh and revise
None of your ikigai are set in stone. Every now and again, revisit the notepad where you first wrote
down your ideas and/or your personal ikigai Venn diagram. Have you faithfully followed the path
you mapped out? Which items are more or less relevant? What is making you happiest and what is
detrimental to your inner sense of well-being at the moment? Do you need to make minor
adjustments or begin a more fundamental overhaul? Are you feeling fulfilled in your daily life?
Refresh and revise accordingly.
Bank of Ikigai
During our lives we are bound to experience traumas that derail us - the break-up of a long-term
relationship, a bereavement, redundancy, a serious injury that prevents you pursuing a favourite
activity, and so on. Suddenly, a central ikigai object is lost. When such misfortune befalls you, it helps
if you have built up a bank of ikigai to draw upon; a treasure chest of small things that have added
useful purpose to your daily life over previous years. These will not immediately fill the void, or ever
replace what you had, but together they may help you get back on track. And, given time, one of
these may even come to the fore in your new reality.
Accept who you are
The ikigai philosophy is not about a one-size-fits-all solution. There is no list of commandments or
rules to adhere to, no one prescribed route. Your ikigai is for you to discover within yourself as your
life unfolds. By being open to trying new things, and by being more aware of how every experience
makes you feel - and impacts upon others - you will gradually gain a better understanding of yourself
and your place in the world.
Ways to Cultivate & Maintain IKIGAI !