Ikigai is a concept that has captured the attention of individuals seeking purpose and fulfilment amidst a fast-paced, modern world. Originating from the ancient wisdom of Japan, Ikigai provides a framework for discovering your purpose and finding profound satisfaction in daily life.
By blending elements of passion, mission, vocation, and profession, Ikigai serves as a compass, guiding you towards a more meaningful existence. In this article, we unravel the key elements of Ikigai, delving into how this transformative philosophy can ignite purpose and bring clarity to the process of life planning.
First, let’s explore the four key elements of a life that’s full of meaning, fulfilment and fun.
“Your mission is having an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction.”
Mission is the inner fire that propels you to make a positive impact and create change in the world. It’s more than just a statement, as it embodies the values, dreams, and objectives that drive you to pursue your purpose in life wholeheartedly.
This is where you bring together something that you love, with something that the world needs. Your time is spent in a way that brings you great joy, but is also of meaningful benefit to others.
When you embrace your mission, your love for it shines through every action you take. It fuels your determination, giving you the strength to overcome challenges and persevere. It’s your source of inspiration and a powerful force that drives you to leave a lasting legacy.
Helping towards Ikigai: In the pursuit of your mission, you will find profound fulfilment, as it allows you to align your passion with your purpose, creating a life that is truly meaningful and extraordinary.
Potentially detracting from Ikigai: Following your mission may lack financial reward and it can take time to develop the knowledge, skills and experience to become fully effective.
“Vocation is a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career”.
The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare which means ‘to call’. It’s like a blend of passion, purpose, and a strong inner calling.
Finding your vocation is about more than just having a job. It’s about finding that sense of purpose where your knowledge, skills and values come together. When you discover your vocation, it’s like embarking on a thrilling adventure where your work becomes an extension of who you truly are.
This is a blend of doing something that the world needs, but also something that you can be paid for.
If you invest time in your vocation, you’ll feel a deep sense of belonging and every step you take feels purposeful and meaningful. You’ll be on a journey of self-discovery and service.
Helping towards Ikigai: Your vocation is the music that plays in your heart, leading you to live a life that’s meaningful and filled with purpose.
Potentially detracting from Ikigai: Your vocation might not necessarily be something that you truly love. Some people feel a calling to a particular path, but just don’t feel quite passionate enough. It’s possible that you may feel a sense of uncertainty and lack of knowledge and experience. Finding your vocation doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at it….yet!
“Profession is an economic activity that requires special knowledge and skill to be applied by individuals for earning their living”
A profession is the culmination of skills, knowledge, and expertise that forms the basis of your career. Over time, this becomes a deep dive into your chosen field, becoming a master at what you do.
It’s likely that you’ll spend time studying, training, and getting hands-on experience to become a real expert. This is where you’ll feel a commitment to continuous growth and development. You’ll stay at the forefront of your industry, adapting to evolving trends and technologies.
Within a profession, you’ll do what you’re good and earn a fair compensation. There is likely to be a sense of structure and hierarchy, with established standards and ethics.
Helping towards Ikigai: Being part of a profession gives you an identity and respect because people know you’re good at what you do.
Potentially detracting from Ikigai: You might not get the same sense of usefulness that you’ll feel with a vocation, nor the sense of joy that you get with a passion. You can be very good at what you do and earn an excellent income, but you might wonder if you’re truly making a positive impact in the world.
“Passion is a strong, emotional feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.”
Your passion ignites the soul, infusing life with vibrant energy and purpose. It is an intense and profound love that stirs the heart and drives you to pursue your deepest desires. It propels creativity, perseverance, and unwavering dedication.
This is where you combine what you love with what you’re good at, in terms of knowledge and skills.
It is the force that sparks inspiration, unlocking hidden potential and pushing boundaries. When you talk about your passion, your eyes will light up, your spirit soars and you’ll feel a magnetic force that compels you to immerse yourself in your chosen pursuit.
Helping towards Ikigai: Passion is contagious, inspiring and uplifting to those around you. It’s a constant source of motivation, helping you to dream big, take risks, and embrace new opportunities.
Potentially detracting from Ikigai: What you feel passionate about might not necessarily add value to the world. It may also not be something that can provide you with financial reward. This can lead to frustration if you don’t have the time or the money to follow your passion, or maybe a feeling that you can’t prioritise it where there’s little or no benefit to others.
The Missing Link
In mid-life, it’s quite common to reflect on your life achievements and conclude that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not too bad. On paper, you may have raised a family, navigated a successful career, bought your own home and nurtured valued friendships. Yet, something’s missing.
Thoughts can often move away from accumulating material possessions, to prioritising time. You might realise that you’re more than half-way to “retirement” age, and that might feel a bit scary.
That sense of “something missing”, despite things looking good on paper, may be one or more missing components of Ikigai.
A lack of doing what you love?
Your life might be comfortable, but with a sense of emptiness. You can spend your days doing what you’re good at, being paid well for it, and it could even be something worthwhile, being of benefit to society.
But deep down, you don’t love what you do. It lacks passion and you feel as though you’ve not yet discovered your mission in life.
Not doing something that the world needs?
You might have reached a senior position in your career, doing what you love and being well paid for it. You have satisfaction in life, yet an uneasy feeling of uselessness.
Deep down, you feel as though you could be doing something more worthwhile.
Not being paid what you feel you should?
One of the most frustrating reflections in life can be a sense of delight, fullness and purpose – but no money. All your energy can be used up doing what you love, you know you’re good at it and it’s something the world needs. But you’ve sacrificed your own financial security and comfort through lack of earnings.
Deep down, you may have anxiety around money and financial planning for the future. Perhaps also, a creeping sense of resentment at your own lack of time and wealth.
Lacking in knowledge, skills and experience?
Even if you discover what you love, what you can be paid for and what the world needs, there could be something holding you back. Imposter Syndrome is an internalised fear of inadequacy and it’s one of the main blockers to Ikigai.
You’ve dreamed up an ideal way to spend your life, but you just don’t know how. You worry that you’re not good enough, or just not ready yet. Deep down, you lack the confidence to follow your path.
The good news
Whatever the blocker to achieving your Ikigai, there will be a solution. It might take time and effort, but there’s always a way.
The challenge? Only you can know the answer to this. You are the expert in your own life, and no ‘guru’ can tell you the magic formula. But a combination of self-limiting beliefs, lack of accountability and perceived financial constraints can make it almost impossible to find Ikigai on your own.
Life planning combines the concepts of life coaching and financial planning to create a framework for reaching Ikigai. It’s a process that explores your values, your strengths and your sense of purpose at a deep level. It helps you to dream big and visualise your ideal future, and then to break it down into management steps at a pace you’re comfortable with.
Overlay that with financial planning to overcome any financial concerns and you’ll have a practical roadmap to your ideal way of living.
This is not something to be rushed. After all, the Japanese spend a lifetime pursuing the concept. It’s no coincidence that Japan has one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
But the sooner you get started on your journey, the closer your Ikigai will come.