Ikigai: the meaning of life

Why do we exist? What do we live for? What is our purpose in life? These questions, always hard to answer, are a representation of our constant search for the meaning of life, on both a collective and individual level. Even when we’re at work, we want whatever we’re doing to be something that not only provides us with money, but also happiness, passion, and a sense that we are achieving our personal goals.

The Japanese have developed a technique called Ikigai, which, although lacking a direct translation into English, is essentially an analysis that helps us define what it is that feeds the motivation that makes us get out of bed each morning. This can be identified by reflecting on four areas: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

The space where these four ideas intersect allows us to pinpoint which activity could provide us with balance and total satisfaction. In other words, something that you’re passionate about, that pays well, and that the world needs. If you can’t be paid for the activity, a lack of money will mean you’ll eventually have to give it up. This concept also applies to your inner or spiritual life. You might work in a profession that you’re very talented at, which provides something the world needs and pays you well, but if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll feel a certain emptiness that, in the long-run, will throw you off balance. 

The everyday hustle and bustle of life, plus our desire to get every last second out of the weekend, both keep us from really thinking. What do I want? Why do I do what I do? It’s always good to take a moment and reflect, so that we can continue to grow.