How Close Are You to Living the Ikigai Work-Life Ideal

Ikigai: The reason for which you wake up in the morning.

Pronounced as if you were saying “like a guy” without that first “L,” ikigai is a small little word with great promise. It’s the idea your passions, needs, talents, and more can align in an incredibly fulfilling way.

Take a look at the image below, which is visual representation of how what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can actually get paid to do might align.

Notice the way in which different sections overlap. For example, you might find your passion being fulfilled if you have a love for riding horses and are good at it. That’s a great place to be, except that where those outer ring elements meet doesn’t overlap with a way to make an income.

On the other hand, someone working as an accountant in the corporate world might find they excel at their job and are well paid, but their drive to make the world a better place doesn’t get the time and attention it needs.

To see what these positions feel like, examine the more detailed illustration here:

In our first example of the horse rider, they’re likely feeling “delight and fullness” at what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis, “but have no wealth.” As we all know, that can lead to stress and frustration.

For our accountant, the overlap means they are “comfortable” in life but have a “feeling of emptiness.” They don’t have the same money stresses as the horse rider, but they are lacking joy in the way they spend their time as well as a sense of contributing to society in a meaningful way.

Should they realize what they are lacking, each of our examples could take action to balance their lives more evenly and come closer to ikigai. Our rider could seek employment that keeps them working with horses or consider offering lessons to bring in some money. Meanwhile, the accountant could make a point of volunteering outside of work hours or get involved with a charity whose mission strikes a chord.

There are some out there who disagree with ikigai being an achievable or even admirable goal. By their way of thinking work is work — it’s not meant to be fun or fulfilling — the hours off the clock are those meant to pursue passions.

As one commenter on an ikigai thread recently put it:

“My goal is not to enjoy my work. My goal is to enjoy my life. The time put into my work is the price that I pay so that I can enjoy the rest of it.

“If you can achieve this ‘Ikigai’ thing then more power to you, but I don’t think it is a realistic expectation. Being an adult is about making choices, tradeoffs between what you’d like, what you want, what you enjoy, and what you need.”

Another countered:

“Growing up, my mom always told me to do something I love because between the short amount of life between sleeping, travelling, and general maintenance of yourself and your surroundings, you will have very little time to actually enjoy the money that comes from a job you hate and spend the majority of your life doing.”

How do you feel about the idea of ikigai? Where do you currently fall on the diagram?

Images via Dreamstime

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