Best of You

Ikigai – What makes you come alive?

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What’s your reason to get up in the morning? The answer is your Ikigai. And it sucks if your answer sounds like ‘Rent’ and ‘EMI’.

Ikigai, simply put – is your reason for being. A reason that drives you. A dream that doesn’t let you sleep.

The concept of Ikigai originates from the world’s oldest population, Japanese, and is now becoming popular outside of Japan as a way to live longer and happier.

Every single person on the surface of the earth has an Ikigain – a reason for being. You only need to discover it.


To find your Ikigai, Japanese scholars recommend starting with four questions:

  • What do you Love? What aspects of your life make you come alive?
  • What are you Great at? What unique skills do you have that come most naturally to you? What talents have you cultivated and what do you excel at even when you aren’t trying?
  • What Cause do you believe in? What breaks your heart or pulls at your gut? What change would you most love to create in the world? What would you give your life for?
  • What do people Value and pay you for? What service, value or offering do you bring, or could you bring, that brings real value to others? Something people need and are happy to pay for or share some value in exchange?

Finding the answers and a balance between these four areas could be a route to ikigai for Westerners looking for a quick interpretation of this philosophy. But in Japan, ikigai is a slower process and often has nothing to do with work or income.

Finding your Ikigai demands a conscientious and diligent hunt which could take a long time but this varies across individuals. Ikigai has been described by professionals as the sum total (a form of interconnected circles) of your passion, mission, profession, and vocation in life. So, in essence, if you can combine what you are good at, what you can be paid for, what the world needs and what you absolutely love doing then you have your Ikigai.

Gordon Matthews, professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says that Ikigai will likely help one get clarity because of the knowledge of one’s purpose. However, he says,

“Ikigai is not something grand or extraordinary. It’s something pretty matter-of-fact. Knowing your Ikigai is not enough – you have to put your purpose into action”

Ikigai is achievable, simple, is not lifelong dream or ambition, is not a to-do list that you simply tick after completion, and it is not invisible. Your Ikigai changes and evolves with age.

Japanese culture promotes the belief that finding your Ikigai is one of the most honorable tasks one should do in their lifetime.

Have you found your Ikigai?

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