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Self coaching tool #4: Your reason for being

Ikigai (prounounced "ee-key-guy") is an ancient Japanese philosophy.


There is no direct translation, but it broadly means "reason for being." To find your ikigai is to find your joy and purpose. Many Japanese believe that everyone has an ikigai, and that you must seek it out to ensure a happy and fulfilled life.


In the western world, ikigai has been adopted as a way of approaching your working life in order to find more balance and meaning. It considers four aspects of your needs:

  • What you love (what you enjoy doing)

  • What you're good at (your strengths)

  • What the world needs (a sense of purpose)

  • What you can be paid for

When all of these four elements come together, you have found the state of ikigai.


The concept can help us understand areas of our lives where we might feel some dissatisfaction or unhappiness.


  • If you're not doing what you love, then no matter how comfortable you are, you might feel an emptiness or lack of enjoyment.


  • If you're not using your strengths and talents then are likely to end up doubting yourself and losing confidence.


  • If you're not doing something that you feel the world needs then you might feel that your work lacks meaning, which can affect motivation.


  • And if you're not being paid (enough) for what you do then you might feel delight and fulfilment in your work, but you will feel insecure and anxious.


It might not be that you find all four elements in one role, but as long as they are all present in your life you will feel fulfilled. Maybe your job combines what you're good at with what you can be paid for, so it is a profession. But your family provide your mission in life, because they provide the purpose and enjoyment. If you have the balance right, this can provide fulfilment.


Using this diagram is a really useful way of thinking about what matters to you, and what you want from your life. I often use it with one to one coaching clients to think about their career and personal development. Everyone's ikagi is different, and it is important to focus on what matters to you not what will confer status.


In Japan, it's also recognised that your ikigai will change at different times of your life. So if it's a concept that appeals to you, it's worth returning to at intervals, to see where your needs may have shifted.




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