Is it possible that with answering only four simple questions, an individual can attain a sense of fulfilment and purpose in life?

According to the Western interpretation of the Japanese concept, Ikigai, it most certainly is.

Ikigai or the value in living traces its origins to the Japanese islands of Okinawa—host of the supposedly largest population of centenarians in the world. Dating as far back as to the Heian period (794 to 1185), the word iki translates to life and its sidekick gai relates to value or worth.

The age-old philosophy makes an appeal to the idea of a reason for being or in simpler terms, a purpose. Gradually, its popularity has expanded throughout the world in an almost antithetical response to current times marked by digitalisation and an ever-expanding, fast-paced way of living.  Ikigai, as understood within a Western world context, calls for individuals to pose and answer a series of questions to unveil their purpose and begin erecting the pillars to their happiness.



The conceptualisation of Ikigai is conventionally portrayed in a Venn diagram to reflect the illuminating convergence of four principal questions.

  1. What do I love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What can I be paid for now — or something that could lead to better pay?
  4. What does the world need?

Finding one’s ikigai need not entail an extensive journey traversing the limits of time and space. Rather, the revelation of purpose can come in the form of everyday curiosity. Allowing the sense of childlike wonder to escape the restraints of routine and humdrum encourages the inner drive to learn, explore, invent and discover. Indeed, it is that sensibility—expanding acutely in response to the pursuit of curious interests—that eventually leads to a visceral answer to each of the above questions.

Ikigai is not one way to live. Ikigai is one’s way of living.

For some, ikigai may manifest itself in the decision to leave one’s corporate job to work remotely in the island of Bali; for others, it may be the choice to oversee a hedge fund company in San Francisco. What matters is not the form, but rather the substance which gives rise to such form. It is there where fulfilment finds home and from which, personal satisfaction begins to stream outwards.

Love. Talent. Finances. Needs. By touching upon each of these areas, one can discover purpose in a digitally-entrenched world and take the first step to living a life worth living.

What’s your ikigai?



Source: BBC News 

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