In our everyday life, we have constantly strived to find the perfect balance of happiness, purpose and success. While some might have easily found that balance, others are still working on it. On times when you have done some self introspection, have you ever wondered where your life is headed? What is your purpose in life? What is the source of your happiness and contentment? Figuring out the right path towards your happiness and success can sometimes feel like solving a puzzle. But did you know that the Japanese have already figured out the formula to finding the right balance of purpose, happiness and success? It is called ikigai. But what does ikigai mean? Here, we will look deeper into what this concept is and provide you with some tips on how to find your ikigai.

What is Ikigai?

According to the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, ikigai roughly translates to “the happiness of always being busy”, and goes beyond a person’s pursuit of the meaning of life.

When you look up ikigai online, you will also find that this Japanese concept of finding your purpose also means “a reason for being”. The term combines two words: iki, which means “life” and kai (voiced out as gai), which means “worth”.  It pertains to the source of value in someone’s life, something that gives a person a sense of direction and happiness. 

A person’s ikigai can be anything: a passion, a dream, a mission, among others. It is something that gives you the reason to get up every morning. It’s what motivates you to keep going and gives you the drive to do something for the pursuit of that ikigai. Some people can easily figure out what their ikigai is. As for others, it can still be an ongoing search.

Given the world we are in right now and the way we live our lives today, finding your happiness and purpose in life may not always seem easy. If you are yet to find your ikigai, perhaps it’s best that you first know what to take into account to truly identify what your reason for being is.

Four Components of Ikigai

In your pursuit to find your ikigai, there are four things that you need to tick off of your list. Figuring out what these four things are will give you a better direction as you continue your search. Your ikigai should be:

1. What you love

Your ikigai should be something that you enjoy doing. It can be anything that makes you feel good; something that you would willingly do anytime. It’s something that will get your dopamine levels up and anytime you have the chance to talk about it and share it with others, you would gladly do so in a heartbeat. It can be as simple as a hobby that you really enjoy doing, such as writing, creating videos, taking photos, painting, dancing, baking cakes or even collecting stamps.

2. What you are good at

Another thing that can help you get closer to finding your ikigai is figuring out what you are, or would like to be, good at. Is there something that you naturally excel at? Something that you can effortlessly accomplish or are considered an expert in? Or maybe there is something that you are willing to learn doing, something you have strived to learn doing or have worked hard to attain? 

It can be a skill that you’ve spent years to perfect, such as videography, public speaking, fashion design, marketing, counseling, or computer programming. So if you are doing something that you love and you are actually good at, then you have now ticked two items off your list to find your ikigai.

3. What you can get paid or rewarded for

To find your ikigai, you should also know what you can get financially rewarded for. Keep in mind that, for us to survive, we need to earn money to support our daily needs and expenses. Thus your ikigai should ideally be something that can get you paid. It’s not enough that you just love what you do or that you are good at it. It also matters that you are properly compensated for it and that it helps put food on the table and clothes on your back.

4. What the world needs

The fourth component for finding your ikigai is something that the world, or a community, needs. Knowing that what we do helps make the world we live in a better place helps us feel good. It makes us feel that we are playing an important role in our community. Nowadays, one reason why a lot of people are not happy with what they do is because they don’t always see the value of what they do. By knowing that your work can change the lives of others, it can help you get closer to finding your ikigai.

How to Find Your Ikigai

Now that you know what it takes to find your ikigai, you can now start analyzing what these four components are in your life. By knowing what you love, what you are good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs, it can be a lot easier for you to understand what your ikigai is. 

If you look at the ikigai diagram below, you will find that to achieve ikigai, you need to have all four components. But sometimes, you might only have two out of the four. In this ikigai diagram, you can see if what you have is your passion, mission, profession or vocation.

Ikigai Diagram - Kanban

Passion

If you have something that you love and are really good at, then you have found your passion. Unfortunately, some people who are pursuing their passion have a sense of satisfaction and happiness. But some of them may feel like what they do is not creating such a huge impact or is not getting them any tangible rewards at all. 

If you are in the same situation, then you might want to figure out a way on how your passion can gain traction, grab the attention of people and eventually make a difference in their lives. Moreover, if you can find a way to use your passion to earn money, then that can help you tick out four out of the four components to achieve ikigai.

For example, if you are passionate about gardening and are really skilled in growing plants, creating a garden and even turning a barren patch of land into a haven of greeneries, then you might want to use that skill of yours to start a small farm, which you can earn money with. 

You can grow different sorts of ornamental plants and flowers then sell them to the people in your community. To grow your market, you can start sharing pictures of your plants online, build an online brand for your small farm and join communities of gardening and farming enthusiasts. 

Other ways you can use your passion to earn money and help a community is by writing a book, starting a blog, offering training and seminars about your craft, or by becoming a resource person to other people who share your passion.

Mission

If you have something that you love and is also what the world needs, then you are someone with a mission. People with a mission usually become advocates of what they believe in. They may also be a humanitarian who’s trying to change the world by joining volunteer missions or offering pro bono services to those who need it. This can give you a sense of fulfillment, knowing that you are making a difference in the world, but you might not be getting proper compensation for what you are doing.

If this is the case with you, then you might be one of those people who haven’t yet figured out a way to improve your craft and market your skills properly. Because to be considered a professional in a certain field, you need more than just passion. You will also need to have proven skills and knowledge to promote what it is that you love and support. This can also be the reason why you still are not earning money while you dedicate yourself to your mission.

For you to find your ikigai, you can start with training. Get a formal education to be better at what you love. Given that it already is creating an impact in a community, you will only need to take some time to improve your craft and eventually, boost your potential in becoming not just an advocate, but also an expert in your field. 

Once you become more knowledgeable in your field, you can then use your acquired skills and knowhow to ask for compensation and start earning money from what you love doing, while at the same time, create an impact in the world.

Profession

If you are among the many people who have something that they are good at and are getting paid for it, then you have your profession. As a professional, you might be earning lots of money doing something that you have basically mastered doing. People like you are usually considered as experts in your field and this is why you are being paid well.

But doing what you are good at and getting paid for it does not immediately equate to doing what you love and making a difference in the world. If you are at a point in your life wherein you have been working so hard, but are not getting any sense of fulfillment, you might have to make some changes in how you live your life. To find your ikigai, you might want to figure out how you can use your profession to figure out what you enjoy doing and find out how it can help make a difference in the world.

For example, if you are a seasoned financial expert who has already built a reputation and a large network of professionals in your industry, you can use your network to start a charity or to raise funds for the less fortunate. You can also use your knowledge in the financial world to offer free coaching to small companies or even to train less fortunate individuals who would like to follow in your footsteps as a renowned professional in your field. This way, you are doing something that creates a positive impact in the lives of others. This impact that you are making can then help you feel more fulfilled and make you love what you do.

Vocation

Now, for those who have something that the world needs and are also getting paid for it, you have found your vocation. Some people who are pursuing a vocation are not always happy about what they do. Also, some of them are not necessarily highly knowledgeable or are not always considered an expert at what they do.

If you think you are one of these people, then you will have to figure out how to be better at what you do and to turn your vocation into something that you love doing. To turn your vocation into your ikigai, you can start by perhaps, earning a degree or by signing up for training sessions that will help you sharpen your skills. You can also work on gaining more experience in your field and eventually become an expert in what you do. Once you have turned your vocation into something that you can do really well, you can eventually feel more enjoyment in doing what you do and soon consider your vocation your newfound ikigai.

Find Your Ikigai and Achieve Happiness

No matter what you have right now, be it a passion, a mission, a profession or a vocation, you can always figure out a way to make the most of your situation and arrive to a point wherein you can have a sense of satisfaction, comfort, delight and excitement at the same time. Once you have found your ikigai, you will realize how good your life is. You will become more productive and feel motivated to achieve success. You will achieve a state of flow that makes it easier for you to enjoy being busy. It will also motivate you to continuously improve and be able to make the most of every second of your life. So find your ikigai and start living a life filled with happiness and purpose.

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