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Do you ever find yourself daydreaming when you are sitting in front of a computer screen trying to work? You wonder whether you could have had a great career in finance or fashion. Or maybe you could have been a carpenter. If you hadn’t stopped competing when you were nine years old, maybe you would be a swimming champion now. What if you haven’t found the right path yet? Ikigai is a Japanese concept that can help you to take stock and find your purpose. Of all the personal development methods that are popular at the moment, this one is very accessible. So it’s worth taking a look.
A little bit of background information
Ikigai comes from the Japanese words ikiru, which means “living”, and kai, which represents the idea of fulfilling your dreams. Although there isn’t a corresponding phrase in English, Ikigai could be defined as a philosophy of life that can help you to find your purpose and your lust for life. This mindset, which dates from the 14th century, helps to explain the long life expectancy of the people of Okinawa Island, which is also known as the “Island of Immortals”. For them, having a reason to get up in the morning is the key to a balanced life, when combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Ikigai helps you to find the intersection between what inspires you, what drives you and your ideals.
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Applying it to the professional arena
When it comes to your professional life, finding your Ikigai means finding a job that is fulfilling, that you have chosen and that you find meaningful. Since the latter is considered to be the Holy Grail, you may have come to see this idea as nothing more than a pipe dream. Here is the good news: we all have an Ikigai and it’s relatively easy to find.
Don’t worry, it won’t necessarily mean packing everything in so you can show up at an audition for The Voice. In her book, Trouver son Ikigai (Find your Ikigai), author Christie Vanbremeersch explains that it requires “moving from a feeling of precariousness and impoverishment to happy frugality”. In fact, those who are passionate about their work usually are willing to make financial sacrifices. You find your Ikigai when you prioritise your personal development rather than material things. When you understand your purpose, you can achieve balance in your personal and your professional life, all the while accepting the idea that earning less may help you to live a better life.
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So how do you figure out your Ikigai?
Okay, let’s put theory into practice. The Japanese method involves asking yourself four important questions so you can determine your Ikigai and your purpose. Your answers will in theory overlap in the middle. If you are to answer these questions in a meaningful way, you will need to take time to reflect, so that you know what you really want. The objective isn’t to answer as quickly as possible, but to really think about your responses, whether that takes you a few days or even a few weeks.
1. What do you like doing?
Make a list of everything that brings you joy on a daily basis. Don’t put any limits on this list. Write it all down. You could also think about who you are jealous of and why. Ikigai specialists say that finding the right path sometimes means going through pain, frustration, anger or other difficult feelings, which can be unpleasant at first, but is helpful when you are initiating change.
2. What are you good at?
You may not notice, but people probably give you compliments all the time. Maybe they appreciate your cooking, athleticism, creativity or musical talent. Perhaps you are known for your people skills: being a good listener, being patient, kind or generous. Try to identify the areas that require these specific abilities.
3. What do you do that helps you to earn a living?
It is always interesting to take stock of your professional skills. What are some of the things you do every day? Why do you get paid to do them? What other skills or abilities do you have that you could get paid to use?
4. What does the world need?
Finding your purpose also means being in tune with your surroundings and the world around you. Are there any causes or issues that concern or affect you? Things you would like to change or causes you would like to get involved with helping?
The situation in which you will flourish lies at the intersection of the answers to these four questions, where your passions intertwine with your purpose, your profession and your vocation. The most effective way to find your result is to write your answers in a circle that represents each one of those questions––like in the diagram below––and your Ikigai will be at the intersection. From these elements, it is up to you to create, invent and adapt to the job of your dreams and the life that goes with it!
Translated by Mildred Dauvin
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