We live in exceptionally turbulent times with all areas of our lives turning upside down, and work is no exception. Hybrid or remote working, 4-day workweek, upskilling, great resignation, quiet quitting, pressure for equal pay, automation, AI, and employee wellbeing – just to mention a few trends shaping the way we work. Still, 60% of people are emotionally detached and 19% are miserable at work, according to the 2022 Gallup Global Workplace research.
So, what can you do to find the right job or career path where you can really thrive?
What is IKIGAI?
Ikigai (ee-kee-gahy) is a centuries-old Japanese philosophy on the ’reason for living’ („iki” means to live or life, and „gai” means reason or worth) in which a person’s peace, purpose and joy lie. It helps us discover why we are here on Earth. Japanese people believe that their ikigai is responsible for the joy they experience in life. It’s the reason why you get up in the morning and gives meaning to every day of your life.
Originally ikigai was a way to discover joy and peace, but it can be used to help you find your passion and fulfilment in your career, and even as a long-term career guide.
Why is having your IKIGAI important?
Having a clear and defined Ikigai gives your life satisfaction, meaning and happiness. Having something that you are passionate about helps you feel grounded even amid constant change and unpredictability. Knowing that you have meaning, and purpose can increase your productivity, motivation and engagement at work.
Your Ikigai may change throughout your life, depending on the life stage you are at, but that’s normal as you are not bound to find only one thing to do.
How can you find your IKIGAI at work?
Ikigai is at the convergence of 4 areas of life: what you LOVE, what you are GOOD AT, what the world NEEDS and what you can be PAID FOR. Your Ikigai is where these 4 areas intersect, and where you should focus your efforts to find your ultimate fulfilment and purpose:
the Venn diagram created by American entrepreneur Marc Winn to illustrate the concept of Ikigai
WHAT YOU LOVE
You find things & experiences that bring you the most joy in this area. It can be anything from watching the clouds, playing with your kids, reading a great book or cycling through a park.
The following questions help you find out what you LOVE:
- what are the things, places and experiences that bring you the most joy? the ones that fill you up with energy?
- what kind of tasks or projects give you the most pleasure in your current job? how about all your past jobs – any difference? something that you would be happy to do anytime? that improves your mood when you talk about it?
- if you struggle to find anything joyful in your current job, list the things you don’t like so that you get a sense of what you don’t want in the future.
WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT
This can be anything you do well: hobbies, sports, skills.
Answer the following questions to find out what you are GOOD AT:
- what have you always been good at, even as a child?
- what comes naturally to you without effort?
- what natural talent or ability have others complimented on or praised you for?
- what tasks at work do your colleagues regularly come to you for help?
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS
The world can mean the whole of humanity or just your closest community – something bigger than yourself. This is how you give back and contribute. Service to humanity can even be a tiny act: don’t underestimate the value of small acts of kindness.
The following questions help find out how you can contribute to the current challenges of the WORLD:
- what are the current world issues or challenges that speak to you? what would you like to be a part of in creating a solution?
- who inspires you? what are their fields of expertise?
- what are the ’small’ gestures & moments in your daily life when you can contribute to a good cause?
- what are the programs supporting a good cause that you can join at your workplace, in your neighbourhood or remotely?
WHAT CAN YOU BE PAID FOR
Sometimes the way we can earn a living doesn’t necessarily align with our passion or mission – at least not right away. It also depends on the economic conditions, the value system of the culture or country we live in, our own personal or family situation.
If we can align our passion, our natural talents, and the potential benefit to others – what can be our niche, unique service and offering people are willing to pay for –, we are already closer to finding meaning and long-term fulfilment in our career.
Reflect on the following questions to discover your PROFESSION:
- what services or products could you provide? what can be your unique offering that people would be willing to pay for?
- what job(s) could you do or transfer into leveraging your current skills?
Remember, this is a journey. Take time to reflect on each of the 4 areas and your answers to the above questions. Look beyond the actual answers and discover the recurring patterns that may emerge.
In the end, your Ikigai is unique to you, so becoming aware of what brings you joy, what your natural talents are, who inspires you and how you can help others will lead you to a truly meaningful and fulfilling career.
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