Ikigai: The Key to Unlocking a Meaningful Life

Uncovering the tools for finding purpose, fulfillment, and joy in everyday life

A person sitting up in a Japanese landscapes. (image created via Lexica.art)

Imagine waking up each morning with a sense of purpose, a reason to jump out of bed with excitement and anticipation. What if there was a secret ingredient to living a life filled with meaning, joy, and fulfillment?

The meaning of Ikigai

Enter the world of Ikigai, a Japanese concept that holds the key to unlocking a life of purpose and happiness. Ikigai is a beautiful blend of the words, where "iki," meaning the concept of "being alive" or "life," and "gai," meaning "worthiness, fruitfulness or effectiveness.

Picture it as the sweet spot where your passion, talent, and potential to benefit others intersect. It's like a compass guiding you toward a life that is both personally fulfilling and beneficial to others.

Four essential questions to answer to one’s Ikigai

The journey to Ikigai may require time, deep self-reflection, and effort, but it is one we can all make. It's like embarking on a grand adventure, where the destination is a life filled with meaning and purposes.

To begin, ask yourself some thought-provoking questions:

  • What do you love doing?

  • What are you good at?

  • What does the world need?

  • What can you be paid for?

Yes I know, this is probably not enough, if everyone can find their reason for being by only answering these 4 questions, then the world would be filled with Buddhas.

To extend those 4 questions further, here are a few more to help you start your journey of finding your reasons to jump out of your bed every morning.

1/ What do you love doing?

  • What aspects of your life make you feel alive and energized?

  • What could you talk about for hours?

  • How would you spend your perfect weekend?

  • When do you feel happiest?

  • What were you doing when you last lost track of time? (the flow state)

2/ What are you good at?

  • What do people approach you for help with?

  • Have you ever won an award?

  • To what activities have you ever devoted over 100 hours practicing or learning?

  • If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

  • What do other people compliment you about?

3/ What does the world need?

  • Think of 3 skills you have that are in high demand.

  • What problems in your society would you like to help solve?

  • What issues in your community or the whole world touch you emotionally?

  • What would you like to see people do more of or differently?

  • What is the world lacking?

4/ What can you be paid for?

  • What have you been paid for before?

  • What do people need? Do you think they would be happy to pay for it?

  • Can doing this give you the income you want/need right now?

  • Can you make a good living doing this work in the long term?

  • Are people willing to part with their resources to pay for what you have to offer?  

The “What can you be paid for” is a kind of tricky question. Except for the “what have you been paid for before” question, others are all hypothetical. But instead of thinking HOW would you be getting paid for the activities, we just take a look at if other people are doing the thing that you would like to do and they are getting paid. I am sure most answer is yes. So ignore the HOW, focus on the WHAT activities that create income and are enough to pay your bill.

Refine your thoughts and revisit once for a while

Reflect on your values, beliefs, hobbies, and personality. As you explore these questions, you may find that your Ikigai is not tied to your social status or income, but rather to the impact you have on others and the world around you.

By now, you probably have a few things that come to mind that could represent your reason for being. If not, that’s okay too. Finding the purpose of life is not an overnight task. But celebrate this moment a little and congrats yourself for taking the first step to investing time searching the life purpose.

People’s value changes over time as we grow, revisit the answer regularly, and see what comes up and what becomes irrelevant, let the diagram guide you through your decision-making.

As you combine your passions, talents, and potential to benefit others in a way that is uniquely yours, this is where the magic happens. It's like weaving a tapestry of purpose, where each thread represents a different aspect of your life, coming together to create a beautiful and meaningful whole.

And who wouldn't want that?

As I wrote this article, I did my own Ikigai diagram as well, and to my surprise, it aligns with what I am doing right now – Solving problems by bringing fresh perspectives to the world and helping people increase self-awareness.

Though it’s not a tangible activity that I can follow, such as writing, teaching, and public speaking. But rather, a value system that I embody. And therefore it’s up to me to use my creativity to deliver my value.

What’s your Ikigai? Reply to this email and share it with me!

Around the Web

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