What It Is
The Ikigai is a Japanese concept, translated as 'a reason for being'. It is the central point of a balance between different driving forces. (More info can be found on Wikipedia
Based on Four Questions
- What do I love? (Or: What do I love doing and what things do I love?)
- What does the world need? (Or: What can I do for other beings?)
- What will people pay me for? (Or: What is worth money/sustenance?)
- What am I good (skilled) at?
Why It's Good
Apart from apparently being good for a long life (see Wikipedia), and as the Japanese say, it bringing satisfaction and meaning to life, there are many benefits. You get to know yourself better, you find and clarify some positive driving forces, as well as find opportunities to have a balanced and complete guiding compass for navigating in life choices. In other words: it's sweet to plot your reason for being!
- Environment: Perhaps the most important thing is to do this exercise in a good environment. You might want to bring a notebook and meditate in the forest, or find some other place where you can relax and contemplate peacefully. (It's good to have a good sitting posture.)
- Material: Notebook/scrap paper, pen, scissors, some kind of thicker/nicer/colored paper (or any blank paper will do).
Step 1: Brainstorming
Write down the four questions (listed above) in your notebook. Take your time to brainstorm answers for any of them. It doesn't matter which question you answer, just make a list of words/sentences. Don't worry about how good answers you actually find, but at least do try to find some good answers.
If you're having trouble finding answers, just write the first thing that comes to mind. If it's still difficult, try it a few days in a row, and then you should definitely have a good list.
Step 2: Drawing the Map
Draw it something like this, on a nicer piece of paper. Write the text near the center, and the lines stretching out to the sides and the corner of the piece of paper.
Step 3: Plotting
Now look at your brainstorming list, and find one of the words/sentences that feels most significant to you right now. Write it down neatly in the corner of another blank sheet of thicker paper, and cut out the word/sentence from the paper.
Look at the graph, and the four questions, and see how well your word/sentence answers each of them. Then place your word/sentence on the graph accordingly:
- The more your word/sentence is something you love and NOT something you can be paid for, the more upwards on the paper you put it (and vice versa).
- The more your word/sentence is something the world needs, and NOT something you are good at, the more to the right you put it (and vice versa).
For example, suppose you love your shoes, but nobody wants to buy them for sure. It's not something you're good at, and not really something other beings need. Therefore, you place "My Shoes" on the very top of the map.
Now, suppose you also love cooking, but are not very skilled yet. You love cooking MORE than you love your shoes, but since you can also be paid for it, it is positioned more downwards than "My Shoes". Cooking is also something other people have the need for, but since you are not skilled at it, "Cooking" is placed a bit up and to the right. Perhaps then cooking is your mission?
Repeat this a few times, or with all your words/sentences, until you feel satisfied.
Step 4: Understanding Your Map
Now you should have a map. The word most near the center is your Ikigai!
Think of the graph as having eight sections: top, top right, right, bottom right, bottom, bottom left, left, and top left. See how well distributed your words/sentences are in these sections.
If any of the sections is empty, you might want to ponder why that is. Or you might do another brainstorm just to find words/sentences that fit there.
- If any words/sentences are on the top right line (or near it), these words/sentences make up your mission. You might find a better word/sentence that define your mission, and if you do that, use it.
- If any words/sentences are on the bottom right line (or near it), these words/sentences make up your vocation. This could be your actual job. You might find a better word/sentence that define your vocation, and if you do that, use it.
- If any words/sentences are on the bottom left line (or near it), these words/sentences make up your profession (what you are trained for). You might find a better word/sentence that define your profession, and if you do that, use it.
- If any words/sentences are on the top left line (or near it), these words/sentences make up your passion. You might find a better word/sentence that define your passion, and if you do that, use it.
Step 5: Having Your Ikigai
Now you can pat yourself on the back! If you are satisfied with your results, you might write down (or paste) your most significant, plotted words/sentences on the piece of paper. Otherwise, if you feel you need more time for this, you may go back and repeat the exercise later. Whether you found your ultimate Ikigai or not, as long as you have done this exercise, you have taken a good step towards it!