Ikigai: “reason for being”

Ikigai: “reason for being”

A term made up of two Japanese words; “iki” (life) and “kai” (the realisation of what one expects and hopes for). To further grasp the concept of Ikigai, it is helpful to see it as the convergence of four elements: what you love (your passion), what the world needs (your mission), what you are good at (your vocation), and what you can get paid for (your profession).


Although originating in Japan, the concept of ikigai is universal; the thing that makes you get out of bed in the morning; the thing you wouldn’t mind staying up late nights for; the thing that drives you and ultimately, gives you a sense of purpose.

So many of us walk around complaining about our jobs - how we can’t stand our bosses, how we aren’t doing what we really want to; how we feel stuck and directionless. We look around at fellow trailblazers who are doing what they are passionate about - the ones who stay up late but do so while keeping that vigor and zest for life; the ones whose eyes light up when you ask them what they’re currently working on.

So what does all this have to do with ikigai? How does finding or understanding your ikigai get you from feeling stuck in a job you hate to following in the footsteps of those trailblazers?

First, be aware that you are in full control; by staying in a job you aren’t exactly fond of, you are making a decision! No one is holding a gun to your head and you ARE making the choice daily to show up at your workplace. Obviously, it is not always possible (for financial or circumstantial reasons) to throw in your resignation letter and go full force on that business idea you’ve been thinking.

Instead, it’s taking control of the situation and doing what you can do right here, right now with your newfound knowledge of what ikigai is!

Perhaps you’re a lawyer fascinated with coffee; you’ve been told you brew up a perfect cup of coffee and have always wanted to open your own cafe. At the same time, the financial responsibility you have on hand makes the concept seemingly impossible.


So what can you do? You could go to coffee festivals to connect with like minded individuals, you could host coffee catch ups for friends where you astound them with your skills, you could attend coffee workshops to brush up on your current knowledge. While these might not seem to change your current job situation, they will no doubt make you feel alive as you do what you love. Who knows? You might meet a potential investor or business partner at a festival… it’s all about keeping your eyes and mind wide open!

So often, life seems easier sticking to the status quo; going through life simply existing rather than living. Think, however, about what you want your life to look like when looked back at. What legacy do you want to leave? Do you really want to go through life knowing that you aren’t doing all you can to make a difference, no matter how small, in the world?

No doubt finding your ikigai is a journey that involves gaining a deeper sense of self awareness; one that involves answering a couple of questions: When was the last time you looked forward to a certain project? Or the last time you hopped out of bed excited for the day ahead? What were you looking forward to in those instances? What were the similarities?

At the same time, know it’s not just about you; finding what you are truly passionate about or your ikigai makes you come alive, which will only go on to inspire those around you and make them come alive as well!
If you're still not convinced, observations by Dan Buettner, an expert on Blue Zones, has revealed how individuals in Okinawa - the area of the world where people live longest - are living the concept of ikigai. Together with a particular local diet and a strong community of support network, ikigai is helping people live longer and happier on this particular island in Japan due to a profound sense of purpose.


Don’t sit back and simply let life pass you by. If you aren’t feeling that sense of fulfilment you know you deserve, ask yourself what a fulfilled and “ikigai-ed” life would look like for you. What changes can you make in your current situation? Regardless of how small a change may seem, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day… and small changes are often the ones that make a world of difference.

Are you ready to awaken your ikigai?

Join The Busy Woman Project LIVE in HK on Thu, 8th Feb 2018. MOVE AND LIVE: What is Your Life's Purpose?