Do you know your purpose in life? What makes you get up in the morning and get on with your day? If your sense of purpose is strong, most probably you’re doing great and living your life to the fullest. The same is true for dedicated parents who do everything they can to care for their children intending to give them the best future possible. Others value the careers that give them affirmation that their skills are needed in this world. Building meaningful relations and engaging in meaningful work are great sources of ikigai.
However, what happens when one loses a loved one or a job they consider as their ikigai? Some people might never recover from the loss and some even lose the will to live. This happens because one does not have a balanced life—some people are so consumed with specific life tasks, they forget to develop the other two.
We need to be able to recover from major loss, such as the loss of a loved one through death or separation, or when one retires from work because of old age. Here, the key for starting over again is going back to the basics—that is, going back to the Self. Pursue a hobby, learn new things, and go on a vacation to somewhere new. Somewhere along the way, you will rebuild your Self, meet new people, and engage in new work that fulfills you.
Ikigai misconception and its implication
For most people in the West who are familiar with the concept of ikigai, it’s often associated with a Venn diagram with four overlapping qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
You may have encountered the viral Venn diagram representation of ikigai. Right at the center is one’s ikigai giving an impression that you must discover your ultimate purpose in life. Also, it shows that a person has a single ikigai.
You could call the Venn diagram a westernized version of ikigai, but the truth is that this is a misconception of ikigai. Contrary to the common interpretation, your ikigai does not lie at the center of those overlapping circles. Presenting Ikigai this way gives people the impression that we only can have a single ikigai in our lifetime. You see, thinking of ikigai this way makes it an elusive idea that’s unrealizable to most people.
What happens when you lose your Ikigai?
In many ways, true Ikigai is the opposite of what’s commonly understood in the West—Ikigai is about embracing the joy of little things, being in the here and now, reflecting on past happy memories, and having a frame of mind that one can build a happy and active life. It’s not about income, professional success, or entrepreneurship.
Although work is one of the sources of Ikigai, one’s ikigai may have nothing to do with their career. In fact, in a survey of 2,000 Japanese men and women conducted by Central Research Services in 2010, only 31% of recipients considered work as their ikigai. Some people may consider their work as their life’s purpose—but life is certainly not limited to work only. Japanese people believe that the sum of small joys in everyday life results in more fulfilling life as a whole.
What if you like your work? That’s fine as well. It would make waking up, getting ready, going to work, and spending more than 8 hours at work more enjoyable. It would give you a sense of purpose and joy while working. But what would happen when you’re suddenly forced to quit your work because of some accident or some unhappy circumstance? If you haven’t developed your other life tasks, you may get depressed and disillusioned when one day you find yourself without the thing that gets you up every morning.
Can you have multiple Ikigai?
Your Ikigai may change or branch out as you grow. You may even see that the act of cultivating your inner potential is an ikigai in and of itself. That’s completely Ok. You discover your ikigai after self-reflection. You actually already have your ikigai—you just have to give yourself the time and space to find or develop it. The beauty of ikigai is that you can have more than one.
We cannot stress it enough that you must work on all three life tasks to develop your ikigai. A father who finds joy going to work every day (Work) also enjoys mountain climbing during his days off (Self) while taking care of his wife and kids (Relations) is an example of a person with multiple ikigai.
Bear in mind that ikigai is not something grand or extraordinary, it can be as simple as taking a walk in the park on weekends or just watching the sunset.
Everything starts with the Self
Many of us are guilty of putting our work or our family first, often putting ourselves on the back burner because it appears selfish. Working on your “Self” life tasks should be one of your top priorities as everything starts with yourself.
Take a thing that you enjoy and build a hobby around it. The hobbies you take up today can be your sanctuary later on when a part of your life goes south. These hobbies may give you something to look forward to later in your life. You should therefore choose your hobbies well, advisedly a healthy one—one which will make you a better person in the long run.
Doing so will make you stronger—physically, emotionally, and mentally. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
The purpose of this article is to remind you that you can (and you should) have several ikigai. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you make your work or your relationship your ikigai. However, you should work on all aspects of your life since doing so will not only make you a well-rounded person, it also makes you healthier and more resilient.
If you ever wondered what’s the key to Japanese longevity and resiliency, you now know the answer to that mystery. So try not to dedicate your whole life to just one life task. You need to work on all three so that when you wake up in the morning each day there’ll always be a tingle of excitement at the back of your mind.
Your Goal Setting Guide for Year2022
It’s the New Year, and understandably many people would like to work on their goals for this year. If you need a guide setting up meaningful goals for this year, you can get our free eBook on Goal Settings that can lead to your Ikigai. Let’s make this year a great year for working on our Ikigai!