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What’s Your Ikigai? Finding Your Reason for Being

Sharon Sherman created this diagram to illustrate the concept of Ikigai
Ikigai and following your passions

What is your ikigai? In Japanese, the word ikigai means “reason for being” and everyone has one. Finding it and defining it can be illusive and difficult for many. It requires a deep and honest search of self to realize what it is that really gets us out of bed in the morning. Once it is discovered and defined though, it can help us to achieve satisfaction, purpose and meaning in life.

The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: iki, referring to life, and kai, which roughly means “the realization of what one expects and hopes for.” As seen in the image above, ikigai is the convergence of four principal elements:







Each of these elements intersects with the benefits of others to form a venn diagram with the ultimate intersection of all benefits in the center. The ikigai is found in the space where these four elements come together to form the source of value in life that makes living worthwhile.

Defining what this could be does not have to be complicated; it’s just about what lights your fire. Ikigai is about connecting your gifts with others and finding the mutual benefit – it is not simply about following your passions. Rising each day with that clarity of knowing you are about to do is something that you love, that you are good at, that fulfills a need in the world and can sustain you financially, makes getting out of bed a lot easier. Even in times of adversity, your ikigai will keep you moving.

Donovan Livingston, the 2016 commencement speaker at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, is a fantastic example of ikigai, using his passion for education and spoken word poetry talent to effectively reach millions with his message of equal and effective education. He will undoubtedly have a very successful career ahead by channeling his passion.

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Since the average person spends roughly 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, it makes sense to seek a career that makes us feel as though life is worth living to the fullest extent. Finding this can bring peace, happiness and satisfaction to your days and make each day better than the last.

Think about what makes you get out of bed in the morning. Take a moment to consider it. What to you love? What are you great at doing? What does the world need? What can you make a living doing? What is your ikigai?

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