It was in January 2017 when I first got introduced to Ikigai—a Japanese concept which is known as the secret to a happy, healthy, and meaningful life. Ever since then, it has been my greatest goal to find mine and live by it.
So, what is Ikigai?
In a nutshell, Ikigai is the reason you wake up and jump out of bed in the morning. It's what keeps you going. It's what you live for. It's why you're doing what you're doing. It's your reason for being.
But what does it really mean? Is it about passion, profession, mission or vocation? More importantly, how do you find yours? Start by answering these questions as truthful as possible. I suggest writing your answers in a piece of paper divided into four sections.
What do you love?
What are you good at?
What can you get paid for?
What does the world need?
Take your time to really think the questions through. You don't even have to finish answering them in one sitting. Just let all those thoughts flow by looking back at the things that made you really happy during the last few months. Dig deep and try to remember your wins and those moments of victories. Observe which fields or activities are good sources of income. Look around you and try to figure out what needs improvement or how you can make the world a better place. What are the current pains or problems that you can bring an answer to? This first step is all about collecting as much dots as you can.
If you feel like you've already poured your heart and mind out, look at your answers and find out what your passion, profession, vocation and mission is.
a. what you love doing + what you're good at = passion
Pursuing passion is awesome because you're going after what you want but when reality hits, there is a big chance that you'll feel useless. Useless because you're not properly compensated for your efforts or due to the fact that you're not doing anything to help the people around you.
b. what you're good at + what you can get paid for = profession At first glance, it sounds so good, right? But look at the people around you, or you know, simply look at yourself. Aren't you good at what you do? Aren't you getting paid for it? If going after your profession is what a meaningful life is all about, then why do you feel so empty? Why is it that the moment you wake up in the morning, you feel so drained that you'd rather go back to bed than go to your 9-to-5 job?
c. what you can get paid for + what the world needs = vocation Imagine getting paid for doing something that benefits the world and the people around you. However, why isn't it the ideal way? Well, I guess that's because when you don't really enjoy what you're doing, you don't get to bring your A game. There's this sense of uncertainty hovering around your head, this small voice constantly whispering those "what ifs" and "maybes".
d. what the world needs + what you love doing = mission
I admire people who go after their mission—these folks who are genuinely happy serving and offering all their might to make the world better. This isn't a path for all because we gotta admit, financial stability is important especially if you have a family (or planning to create one) who depends on you to survive.
So basically, Ikigai is more than just pursuing your passion because it's not sustainable to just go off doing what you love doing without thinking of your finances. It's not just about doing what's best for everyone because how can you help more people if you don't have the resources to do so? It's not restricted to following where the money flows because you might just end up tired, lost and unhappy; neither does going after what you're good at because it might only bring you discontent. Ikigai is not about singling out your passion, profession, vocation and mission. It is actually the balance of these four elements.
Now that you understand what Ikigai is all about, go back to your answers, read them, take them in and try to connect all those dots that you've collected. Look for a pattern. Is there anything similar or at least related among all your answers in those four questions? If there is then voila—that's your Ikigai!
I guess I love the idea behind Ikigai so much because it's similar to Buddhism's concept of the middle way. It's not trying to champion one single thing because it's never sustainable to just focus on one aspect given that as human beings, our thoughts, feelings and lives in general are far too complex.
Please remember that finding your Ikigai is a process and patience is very important as you're the only one who can decide for yourself what your Ikigai is. It can take months or even years before you figure it all out but that's okay. As long as you consistently try to look in and out, I promise you that you'll get there. At the same time, always keep in mind that it can still change depending on your personal experiences, preferences and what's happening around you. It is not the end goal. It's not some sort of a final destination, and just because you don't know yours yet doesn't mean that you're being left out. Ikigai is more of a work in progress, just like us all.
Moreover, figuring it out is one thing. Living by it is another, and that's what we'll try to ponder upon on my future blog posts.
I'm well aware that not everyone has the luxury to pursue their Ikigai given that there are so many people whose lives constantly revolve around trying to make their ends meet. However, I'd like to believe that all of us deserve to be able to find ours. Since some people including you and me are more privileged than the others, then maybe this is one of the things"the world needs" that we can do something about through our Ikigai.
What are your thoughts on this? Hit the chat box and let me know! If you find this post interesting, I hope you can share it to a friend!