Many of us are constantly searching for a purpose in our lives and making a worthwhile life.
If you’ve never heard of the Japanese concept of ikigai, you’re about to embark upon a way to find your purpose in life.
Ikigai (pronounced ikee-guy) is a concept combing the term iki, which means ‘life’ or ‘alive’, with gai, which means ‘worth’ or ‘benefit’.
Combined, this is similar to the French raison d’être or your ‘reason for being’.
What to Expect? In this article on ikigai, we’ll explore the concept and its background philosophy before providing ikigai examples to help you find your purpose.
Ikigai examples: the idea
The concept of ikigai is pretty straightforward.
When a person finds his or her ikigai, they have found their purpose and passion.
In order to find this, you need to understand:
- What it is you love
- What your strengths are
- What it is you can be paid to do
- And what is needed in the world
When a person finds their ikigai and uses it in their job, it means they’ll be living a carefree, happy lifestyle.
When all’s said and done, who wouldn’t love to be paid for doing what they love and what they’re good at all while they’re making a difference to the world?
Ikigai examples: finding your ikigai
Essentially, a person’s ikigai is a combination of what they love and what they’re good at.
It’s not easy to find it and it often takes time and failings along the way.
Most people will work lots of jobs that don’t give them that ikigai feeling but every job you try will teach you something that’s useful provided that you’re prepared to learn, listen, and grow.
The concept in depth
It’s believed that the idea of ikigai evolved from the principles of traditional Japanese medicine in terms of how our physical wellness is closely linked to our mental and emotional health as well as our sense of purpose.
It’s about feeling a sense of wellbeing due to being involved in activities we enjoy that also bring us fulfilment.
However, ikigai doesn’t just refer to our personal purpose, but rather it is linked to the benefit of other too.
So, with ikigai, we have a purpose, meaning, and fulfilment while we contribute something to others too.
It has been said that everyone has their own ikigai, they just need to find it. And in order to do so, this takes deep self-reflection, time, and effort.
When people go about finding their ikigai, they often use a Venn-style diagram, involving overlapping circles that cover:
- What the person loves
- What they’re good at
- What is needed in the world
- What they can get paid for
The central spot is the ikigai – something that meets all four circles.
For some people, the content of each circle is easy.
For others, it’s more difficult. Many people often struggle to really pin down what they’re good at (especially if they have low self-esteem).
Some even find pinning down what they love difficult. It can take a lot of effort, self-reflection, and time to clarify what you can put in each circle.
Examples of ikigai: what to put in each circle
What you love
In your ‘what you love’ circle, you can include things you experience or do that brings you joy.
This can be anything that makes you feel fulfilled and alive!
This is a very personal thing. For some people, it could be a simple as drinking a morning coffee outside in the sunshine.
For others, it might be reading thriller books.
Some people find it easy to write down what they love. But others, find it hard to sit down and think what do I love?
The most important thing to consider here is that it is something that you truly love without ability getting in the way.
If you love knitting but aren’t good at it, it doesn’t matter. It is simply about the act of doing it that we need to focus on here.
Keep In Mind – It’s also important not to get too focused on things you can get paid to do – that will come in another section.
What you’re good at
With your ‘what you’re good at’ circle, you might struggle.
This is because lots of us find it hard to admit to (or even find) things we’re good at.
With this circle, you need to put modesty aside and you also need to concentrate on everything not just on big things like being an elite runner.
Yes, talents can be skills and hobbies like singing, art, sports, etc. but they can also be things like public speaking, being empathic, or being hardworking.
This circle encompasses, therefore, all of your capabilities – it doesn’t matter whether you love them, whether the world needs them, or whether you can get paid for them.
What is needed in the world?
This sounds like a huge ask but it doesn’t mean you need to solve the problems of humanity!
The “world” of your circle might be the whole of the human race, but it might also be your street, your local community, a local school, or a particular sector of society.
What is needed in the world depends on your point of view, who you are, and the experiences and impressions you have.
The needs may include clean water, heating, nursing, policing, charity volunteers, and much more besides.
This circle of ikigai is connected explicitly to others and doing good for people beyond your own needs.
When you consider it in this light, it’s essentially helping others in some way.
What you can get paid for
We can be as simplistic about life all we want but the reality is, everyone needs money to survive.
How much money you need depends on a number of factors: where you live, your personal needs, and the lifestyle you want to live.
In this circle, we’re also talking about the wider society.
Essentially – Someone has to be willing to pay you for something. You might be enthusiastic about running marathons but unless you’re an elite athlete with sponsorship, you’re not going to get paid for doing it.
Whether you can get paid for our talents will depend on lots of things: whether they’re in demand and the state of your country’s economy are but two.
In an ideal world, what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what is needed in the world will all be the same.
There are lots of ikigai examples where this is possible: a passionate brain surgeon, a fulfilled teacher, an author, and an Olympic swimmer.
However, 99.9% of the time, this is not going to be the case.
Ikigai examples and finding yours
Looking for ikigai, your reason for being, is often what people are doing anyway – even if they are not conscious of it.
Even though ikigai conceptions can vary, in general, people agree that finding something that motivates you – your purpose in life – means you’re much more likely to feel happy and fulfilled.
It is in our nature to pursue the things we love and to develop talents, help other people, and earn money.
At the same time, it isn’t always fundamentally obvious where these natural drives coalesce to form a path leading to a fulfilling life. For these people, self-reflection is needed.
Beyond a career
Many people naturally use the ikigai concept to help them to decide their career path.
However, ikigai examples can go beyond this and can be used as a way of approaching things in general.
Ken Mogi, a Tokyo-based author and neuroscientist, states that:
“Ikigai is all about making these small actions into pleasurable rewarding experiences. You can start from your morning chore of taking a cup of coffee and chocolate. I personally do that every morning and then I immediately start doing some writing or reading in the morning and my day just goes on and on without resting or having an inactive period because I can do that because I’m in an almost constant state of flow.”Ken Mogi
Mogi defines the Five Pillars of Ikigai in the following way:
- Start small
- Release yourself
- Sustainability and harmony
- The joy of the small things
- Being in the present
This is explained by the following quotation by Ken Mogi:
“This whole attitude of starting from very specific, small things actually makes you go the longest in terms of creating something wonderful. So I think that’s a really typical approach by Japanese people and I think that could be an inspiration for many people around the world because we talk too much about goals and not enough about specifics and small things.”Ken Mogi
Final thoughts on ikigai examples
To summarize, ikigai is all about leading a life worth living – a life with motivation and purpose in all that we do as well as having the awareness of the need to make a contribution to other people’s lives.
There really are no ikigai examples that we can share for you to use. One person’s ikigai will be entirely different to the next.
Even a set of identical twins won’t have the same ikigai. So, draw your circles, and see if you can find out what your ikigai is today.