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Find Your Reason For Being


What’s the meaning of life?  No really: what’s the meaning of your  life?  An age-old question, but you can argue that it’s the foundation of true life-long happiness, fulfillment and even self-actualization.

For a bit of inspiration, we offer “ikigai,” a Japanese concept that literally means “reason for being.” Paraphrased, it’s the reason you get up every morning.  This concept can guide the way to integrate and even maximize your professional, personal, spiritual and emotional life.

Ikigai is a framework with four key questions that overlap into a Venn diagram:

  1. What do you love?

  2. At what are you good?

  3. What does the world need from you? and

  4. For what can you get paid?

What do you love?  Think of your hobbies, what relaxes or rejuvenates you, or what gives you energy.  Maybe it’s gardening, fitness or exercising; perhaps travelling, reading, sports or any number of things.  It could be related to your work, your family, your volunteer activities, and/or your personal interests.

At what are you good?  Focus now on your skills and competencies – they can be professional or personal. This is something you can develop over time – with additional formal education, on-the-job or classroom training, certifications or stretch assignments.

If what you love intersects with your strengths (questions 1 and 2), then ikigai says that you have found your passion(s).  For example, if you love data analysis and you’re good at it, your passion is analyzing and making sense of data!

What does the world need from you?  Find what the world needs.  If the world needs coaches and you love to coach, you found your life’s mission.  Or there are too many coaches already – or if the world just doesn’t need coaches – you may have to explore other world needs that you love doing to find that mission.

For what can you get paid?   What is the world is willing to pay you for doing – a market, if you will.  If people need supply chain leaders and they are willing to pay you to do this role for them, you found a vocation.  If they’re willing to pay you for expertise and you’re really good at it (question 2), you found your profession.

Beyond these four intersections there are five more intersections in the ikigai model that are pretty revealing:

  • If what you love is what you’re good at and the world is willing to pay you for it but it’s really not what the world needs, you have satisfaction, but a feeling of uselessness.  It’s hard to find examples for this, but maybe it’s a juggler or a clown.  You love doing it, may be good at it, and people are willing to pay for it, but it really doesn’t serve much of a purpose (hope I didn’t offend any clowns out there).

  • If what you love doing is what the world needs and is willing to pay for but you’re not very good at it, you’ll feel excitement and complacency, but a sense of uncertainty.  Ok – this is me playing golf!  I love doing it (most of the time), the world needs it (I guess) and is willing to pay for it (tickets to tournaments, TV advertisements, etc.) – but I’m just not good enough to make a go at it professionally.

  • If what you love doing is something you’re good at and something the world needs but is not willing to pay for, then you’ll have delight and fullness, but no wealth.  To be honest, this intersection might be a good candidate for volunteer work – fulfilling in every way, but not a paycheck.

  • If what you’re good at is something the world needs and is willing to pay for, but you really don’t love doing it, you’ll be comfortable, but have a feeling of emptiness.  This might sound familiar: you do good work, get your paycheck, but you’re really not all that fulfilled.  Punch the clock; get paid; go home and do whatever it is you really enjoy.

Those four intersections in the model leave you partially unfulfilled, and probably represent reality for many of us.

But the fifth intersection – where everything overlaps in the model – represents an ideal state.  If what you love doing is something you’re good at doing and something the world needs and what you can be paid for, you’ve found ikigai – your true life’s purpose and meaning, and a balance between what you can (and want to) do that’s of value to the world.

So as we wind down what has been an historic year, for better and worse,  and gear up for 2021, perhaps these the insights from this tool will help you find your own ikigai.

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