Ikigai – what is your reason for being?

At this time of my life I feel I’m moving into a new chapter of service, and so I am really taking time to ask myself lots of seemingly old questions in a new way, wanting to crystallise who it is that I want to be in the world, and what it is that I want to share with the world. These are good questions for all of us to ask ourselves at certain transitional times of our life – kind of like a ‘life review’, a check-in that we feel we’re on the right path, that we are consciously choosing the life we wish to lead rather than finding ourselves floating along passively.

A friend recently shared with me a concept that comes from an ancient Japanese culture, which focuses on the concept of ‘ikigai’, which translates roughly as ‘reason for being’, which has been a helpful tool for me to understand where I wish to place my professional energies. I see this concept as similar to the yogic concept of ‘dharma’ and the Chinese daoist concept of ‘ming’. All of these terms kind of mean the same thing – the mysterious pull on our soul, that keeps us on the right path when we are attentive, and leads us to the activities that bring us the most peace, fulfilment and happiness. Another idea I like is that we all came here with some kind of soul plan, an intention for the evolution of our soul in this incarnation. When we are aligned with this we feel good, and when we move away from it we feel restless, unfulfilled, a strange sense that something is wrong or missing.

Whichever concept you choose to apply to your own questionings, I encourage you to contemplate the ikigai venn diagram below, as it provides a comprehensive framework for such a self-analysis process. The concept is refreshingly practical and complete, providing a useful tool for analysing where you’re at on your path, and where you wish to go.

The diagram breaks down ikigai into its different components: your mission in the world, your profession, your vocation and your passion. It is fairly self-explanatory. When we are right in the middle, satisfactorily meeting all the different elements, we are living with Ikigai, our reason for being (or ‘raison d’etre’ as the French say). When we miss even one element, there will be some kind of missing piece, and the diagram describes the various flavours that this can take beautifully, depending on which piece is missing.

So, rather than me attempt to explain more here, just have a go at applying this structure to your own professional life, and let me know how you get on – follow your intuition and enjoy the process… 🙂


One thought on “Ikigai – what is your reason for being?

  1. Thanks, Becky. Beautiful, elegant, simple – as you might expect from the Japanese. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a typo – “complacency” doesn’t really fit as a positive, particularly as coupled with “excitement”? Or am I missing something?

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