Finding your Ikigai

Coming to a career crossroad and trying to figure out your next move? The key to finding the path to job fulfillment could be closer than you think with little more than some creative brainstorming.


Ever heard of the saying “find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”? It makes a lot of sense. Constructs that explain the pursuit of happiness have been deliberated over by philosophers for centuries, and the Japanese concept of ‘ikigai’ – the word translating to ‘reason for being’ is all about finding your life purpose, the thing that gets you up in the morning. Pinpointing what that is can help you start the journey to living your best life.


So, how does it work? Ikigai is broken down into four sections:


1          What you’re good at

-your gifts, talents and skills, natural or learnt


2          What you love to do

-anything that ignites a spark in you, your passions, interests and curiosities


3          What the world needs

-ways you can contribute to the world or help others/society


4          What you could be paid for

-anything you can do that you could make money from


The idea is to write down as many things as you can think of under each section, anything at all that comes to mind. You’ll notice some ideas will be repeated in two to three areas but not appear in all four and this is where you need to get creative to find those connections and the ideas that overlap.


Following a career that only ticks a couple of the boxes can leave you with the sense you’re lacking something. You might feel financially comfortable but empty, for example, or complacent but with a sense of uncertainty, or contributing to a greater cause but not making enough money to sustain it. The idea that appears in all four sections is what you want to find, and that point where they intercept is the sweet spot - your ikigai.


It’s important to note your ikigai can change over time and what once felt like your purpose can lose its energy and zest as your interests change, because naturally the things that keep you engaged and make you tick change over time too. The aim is to again find where your pa­­­­ssions, skills, gifts and values align so you can feel fulfilled while still making a living – and making a living so you can continue doing the very thing you love.


If your first attempt doesn’t provide the answers or you feel you’re struggling to think of what to write, don’t worry. Put it aside and revisit it another day. Make a pointed effort to be more aware of your day to day movements, enjoyment levels and moods. Pay attention to the areas where you shine, no matter what they are. The moments when you’re having fun and thriving could be the clues pointing to where you’d be happiest devoting your time.


Consider your thoughts a net and cast them a little wider, then pick up your ikigai activity again and see if you come up with something that makes your heart sing. You might just land on the very thing you’re meant to be doing and unlock the key to a long and fulfilling life.