Everyone wishes to cultivate their own inner potential and realize themselves. To do something that we are good at, that is fun and solves a problem for the world – that is an incredibly feeling of happiness. And if this also brings us income…it feels fulfilling. But why is it only a ‘dream’ for many? Is it also your dream and your fears and doubts prevent you from turning this dream into reality? Or do you feel that there is something inside you but you don’t yet know what you’re good at, what you love, what the world needs? Or you can’t implement it because you won’t get any income? Try to turn your fear into positive thoughts that encourage you. Fear is a negative thought that prevents you from making your dream come true. But also be realistic and mindful. And this is where IKIGAI comes in. In this article I will explain how to find your purpose of life based on the Japanese philosophy IKIGAI.

The Meaning Of ‘IKIGAI’

First, let’s look at what IKIGAI actually means. There is no direct translation of ikigai. The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: iki meaning ‘life; alive’ and kai (sequentially voiced as gai) meaning ‘effect; result; fruit; worth; use; benefit’ thus the meaning of IKIGAI is something like ‘a reason for living; a meaning for (to) life; what (something that) makes life worth living’. I have also read that IKIGAI is ‘the highest level of desire, may be considered to be essentially the processes of cultivating one’s inner potential or that which makes one’s life significant’.

IKIGAI is not always career or money related, quite the contrary. However, the Western world has created its own version of the IKIGAI philosophy, relating it to career and stating that when these four qualities have been fulfilled in one’s career, one has found one’s destiny:

1. What am I good at?
2. What do I love?
3. What does the world need?
4. What can I be paid for

At the intersections of the respective four elements, four basic needs emerge.

1 + 2 = Passion
2 + 3 = Mission
3 + 4 = Vocation
4 + 1 = Profession

And the complete intersection is then your IKIGAI.

How To Find Your IKIGAI

Our Passion: What we are good at + What we love

If we are good at something and love what we do, it is our passion. Let’s say you are incredibly good at drawing and love the craft of drawing, then you have found your passion. If you can also sell your paintings maybe through an exhibition, then you have found your profession as well. You feel satisfied at this point but you don’t feel that you have a direct positive impact in the world. What can you do as an artist to have a positive impact? Maybe there would be the possibility that you donate a part of your income to a good cause or you offer an additional volunteer painting course for refugees and thus you could reach your vocation and mission, too.

Our Mission: What we love + What the world needs

Doing what we love and what the world needs is our mission. Example: Poor people need food support and let’s assume you love to cook and helping people in need gives you a sense of happiness. This is your mission. Since you’re not a real expert and don’t have much know-how about ingredients, take nutrition training to help you learn and feel more confident in what you’re doing, and also help you achieve your passion. You feel joy and abundance, but it’s still just a passion and a hobby with no pay. To make this your career you could start cooking for an organization that supports people in need and earn a living with it and you will also achieve your profession and vocation.

Our Vocation: What the world needs + What we can be paid for

Example: Suppose you are a nurse. People need medical care when they are sick or old. You do what the world needs and you get paid for it, that’s your vocation. You love what you do because you are able to help people with your profession so you found your mission. So your job brings excitement but also uncertainty because you need more expert know-how. Take a training course and build up your expertise so that you become better and better. So you get closer and closer to your profession and passion at the same time.

Our Profession: What we can be paid for + What we are good at

If we’re good at something and get paid for it, it’s our profession. For example, you are a math genius and work professionally as a well-paid programmer. Let’s say you program a map that shows facilities for the disabled people. Then you found your vocation because you are also doing something good for the world with your job. Although you feel comfortable about your job, you may also feel a certain emptiness because you don’t really love what you do. Ask yourself why it is that you don’t love your job. Maybe you are unmotivated because you are not given any responsibility. Then try to change something: talk about your wishes and ask for what you want to find your passion and mission and thus your IKIGAI.

What’s Your IKIGAI?

I hope I was able to bring you closer to the Japanese philosophy of IKIGAI. I also recommend to look for books that explain in much more detail how to find your purpose of life. It’s not as difficult as we often think. The most important thing is to stay positive and mindful. I personally think that it also has a lot in common with buddhism. What’s your IKIGAI?