Ikigai (Life Worth)

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I’ve watched a few samurai movies lately. I didn’t think there were that many, but now my feed is full of them. Like rabbits multiplying. Or Tribbles, if you are a Star Trek fan.

This flurry of feudal activity has piqued my interest in Japanese culture. Today, we’ll discuss the concept of Ikigai, which has to do with the reason for being or one’s life purpose.

The older I get, the more urgency I feel surrounding people discovering and living out their life’s purpose. It’s on my mind a lot. Almost 80% of people when asked don’t have a clear answer about what their purpose is. More (much more, actually) on this topic in future episodes.

Ikigai is a combination of two words. The first – iki – means life. The second – gai – means value or worth.

There are four core intersecting ideas embodied in Ikigai. As with most things Japanese, harmony, holism, balance and flow are vital.

Here are the four intersecting ideas: what we love, what we are good at, what the world needs, and what we can be rewarded for.

To me, these ideas are great starting points for thinking through your own purpose, or refining it further if you already have a pretty good idea of what you are about.

These four ideas bring logic to what often seems like an overwhelmingly large topic.

Idea 1 – Passion – Passion is defined as what you love. What brings you joy and fulfillment? What truly excites and motivates you? I’m always amazed at the number of people that cruise through life never really understanding what makes them tick. Don’t be on that list.

Idea 2 – Profession – Profession is defined as what you are good at. We typically associate this with our jobs or careers, but in Ikigai it relates more to your skills, talents, and abilities. It involves recognizing your strengths and areas of expertise, and utilizing these to make a difference.

Idea 3 – Mission – Mission is defined as what the world needs. Most of us see needs or problems around us that need attention. Which of these burden you or are on your heart? Your heart’s call is often a strong indicator of how you might best contribute, make a difference, or help others.

Idea 4 – Vocation – Vocation is defined as what we can be rewarded for. This comes down to making a living and providing for ourselves and our families. It also goes beyond that to the idea of emotional payoff or satisfaction. Most of us feel really good when we know we are making a difference. What does that look like for you?

The Japanese say that you have found your Ikigai when you discover the convergence of these four ideas. It is the sweet spot where your passions, skills, and purpose align, providing deep fulfillment and life value.

Our society for some time has embraced the ideas of instant and disposable. Living on purpose rejects these, replacing them with lifelong pursuit and legacy.

Purpose is a lifelong journey, not a fixed destination. And it’s often more about your heart than your head. Definitely not something you just check off a list.

Are you ready to take the first steps?

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