It has been a while since my writing avatar appeared on this space but I had good reasons for the temporary absence. More on that later, but I have an interesting post today on Ikigai and how this concept has had profound implications on my professional and personal lives. If you haven’t read the book already, I strongly suggest you do.
What is Ikigai?
There is no true English translation of this Japanese word but it means something like a sense of purpose for your life. Ikigai is a portmanteau of “iki” which means life/being alive and “gai” which means result/fruit/benefit. Read together, it loosely translates to reasons that make life worth living. Feeling ikigai usually denotes the feeling of accomplishment and a sense of fulfillment that follows when people pursue their passions. Activities that generate the feeling of ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are spontaneous, willingly done and hence contribute to the betterment of a person’s inner self.
Ikigai = reason for living/motivation for future
What does it say?
Ikigai has two aspects: the sources/objects that bring value to life and the feeling that one’s life has value because of the existence such source. Ikigai as a concept recommends the following approach to work/life in general:
- Doing what you love. The primary driver of personal well being and happiness is doing what you love whether at work (especially at work) or socially.
- Doing what you are good at. All those management gurus who talk about focusing on bettering your flaws are at loggerheads with this concept.
- What you can get paid or rewarded for – fairly obvious.
- What the world needs.
Basically you achieve your ikigai or highest sense of well being if you are doing what you love, are good at, that is something that the society needs and can be quantified and compensated. This is a combination that promotes the highest sense of well being and success. Success and better work opportunities result when you follow your personal ikigai. (You can also check out my book review of The Alchemist here if you want a Brazilian’s outlook on life, success and personal dharma)
Do what you love, what you are good at, that which society wants and you get rewarded.
Ikigai can be social (accepted by society), non-social(individualistic activities such as faith, religion etc) or anti-social (dark motivations such as revenge etc)
Why is Ikigai so popular?
- Ikigai is a universal human experience irrespective of what you do, where you live
- Ikigai marries your highest levels of desires with feeding your inner potential in maximizing the sense of your well being. Who could possibly argue with that?
- Ikigai adherence opens pathways to material, social and possibly spiritual well being.
Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t” talks about something called as the Hedgehog Concept which is similar to the Ikigai in many aspects.
The Hedgehog Concept is based on an ancient Greek parable that states, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In the tale, the fox uses many strategies to try to catch the hedgehog by sneaking, pouncing and playing dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, because it never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one big thing perfectly: defend itself.”
The Hedgehog concept’s following principles dovetail the Ikigai almost perfectly.
- What are you deeply passionate about? (that you love to do, and that reflects your values)
- What can you be the best in the world at? (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at)
- What drives your economic engine? ( What are the things that you can do that would add significant value to the organization?)
Here is what Jim Collins says about being the best in the world:
- “A Hedgehog Concept … is an understanding of what you can be the best at.
- ”What are you genetically encoded for? ( That which you feel you were made to do, fits your psychology and capabilities, it may even be an innate god-given gift such as a great singing voice etc)
- What you do that carries economic value? (What you can make a living out of and yet fulfills your goals/objectives)
Which brings us back to the title: 9 months of winter? Yes, indeed because I am relocating from Hong Kong which is in the northern hemisphere to Sydney which is in the southern hemisphere where the seasons are inverted. (So I am moving from a location where summer is beginning to another place where summer is ending)
That’s it for now, going to finish up those mounting piles of packing material that no ikigai can solve.