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Ikigai – ‘Life’s Worth’

Ikigai (生き甲斐,) is a Japanese term for “a reason for being.” The word ‘Ikigai’ usually refers to the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. It’s the sweet-spot between what you LOVE, are GOOD AT, can be PAID FOR and what the world NEEDS. The word is combination […]

Ikigai (生き甲斐,) is a Japanese term for “a reason for being.” The word ‘Ikigai’ usually refers to the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.

It’s the sweet-spot between what you LOVE, are GOOD AT, can be PAID FOR and what the world NEEDS.


The word is combination of, ‘Iki’ meaning life and ‘gai’ meaning worth; it literally means ‘life’s worth’.

When I sold my business I had a good break doing nothing. But it wasn’t long before I was curious as to what I would do next. As always I do a bit of reading and I identified that the first phase of my process would be all about Intention. In other words, clarifying professional and personal goals, and identifying the ‘destination’ I wanted to reach.

It would be foolish to start a journey with no idea of where you are going, so why do so many of us doing this in business?

So HOW do you find your Ikigai?

After some reading and research I wanted to dig deep to determining my Ikigai. This is takes absolute honesty and is a real soul-searching exercise.

Firstly, explore what you love. This may sound simple, but just stop for a minute…how do you know what you love?

Strip away any possible reward, tendencies to rationalise or inherent judgements. Be completely selfish. What energises YOU, brings YOU joy, makes YOU smile when you think about it? Include hobbies, interests, activities…write these down – all of them, however surprising, weird, mad or daft you think they are.

Next, explore what you are good at.

Again, there is a tendency to look to the past for guidance or to justify where you are now. There is also a fear of sounding ‘big-headed. It is important to strip all these thoughts  away during this process.

We are talking about you NOW. What do you find easy to do that others find difficult? And I’m not talking about only your professional skill sets; include all the talents you have, from being able to draw, to making cupcakes. Get them all down.

Now the big picture, what does the world need?

What issues in society, the environment, industry, business do you feel you can contribute to? Think about creating a major shift that needs to happen so we can all enjoy life on this planet.

The famous motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, explains that we all have six human needs – one of which is an inherent need to ‘contribute beyond ourselves’. So, what needs to change in the world, what cause could YOU contribute to?

Once this is done, and only when you have exhaustively explored these three elements, you can progress on to the burning question: what can you be paid for? This will be a combination of the first three elements.

Where the first three intersect, can you identify a profession you could be paid for?

Seek the truth, not a quick answer.

This is not a quick process. To do this process properly it will take time. Give yourself time to think over each stage, have a break, take a walk, sleep on it.

Doing this will ensure that what you come up with is true to you. Once you have it, you will get a visceral reaction. That’s is your signal that you have it!

When working through this process – seek truth.

Many people will filter what they write due to embarrassment, lacking confidence, fear of judgement, criticism, dreaming too big and societal norms. They rationalise each thought internally before putting it on paper.

That internal filter can hinder this process. An interesting quote from a fantastic book Creating Freedom by Raoul Martinez states:

“Before we can shape the world, we must understand that the world has firmly shaped us”.

Are you conscious of the stories others tell you and even those you tell yourself about what you can and can’t achieve? This might be because of how it fits with the world we live in. Frequently, my job is to help those thoughts get out, free of this social conditioning and filtering. Of what’s normal, acceptable or otherwise.

Ikigai is NOT about identifying a profession. It is far more holistic than just your ideal job, it is about the type of life you want. This is your ‘WHY’. It’s important. Take the time to think deep and hard to explore and identify YOUR Ikigai.

Trust me it will be worth it!

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