Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy combining the terms iki, meaning “life” or “alive”, and gai, meaning “worth” or “benefit”. Together, these terms describe life’s purpose or meaning. In many English-speaking countries, ikigai is defined as a reason to get out of bed in the morning. An ikigai diagram is a powerful framework based on Japanese philosophy for discovering one’s life purpose.
- Understanding ikigai
- The four components of an ikigai diagram
- Some key points about ikigai and ikigai diagrams
- Key takeaways:
- Other Lean Manufacturing Frameworks
- SMART Goals
- TQM Framework
Ikigai is thought to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. Specifically, that physical health is connected to mental health and a sense of life purpose.
Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano argued ikigai is a state of wellbeing derived from devotion to activities one finds fulfilling and enjoyable. Kumano also compared ikigai to eudaimonia – an ancient Greek concept describing lasting happiness from a life well-lived. The philosophy has also found use in modern cognitive-behavioral science, with the pursuit or mastery of enjoyable activities known to alleviate depression.
The four components of an ikigai diagram
The ikigai diagram was created by mentor and speaker Marc Winn who represented the philosophy as a Venn diagram.
Many practitioners suggest Winn’s diagram is a westernized misinterpretation of the concept. This may be true, but we can still learn some important lessons from it.
As with all Venn diagrams, the ikigai diagram uses overlapping circles to illustrate the relationships between two or more factors.
Let’s take a look at them now:
- Circle 1 – that which one loves, or the things we derive the most joy from experiencing.
- Circle 2 – that which the world needs. This may be something a small community needs, or humanity in general.
- Circle 3 – that which one can be paid for. Not all passions or joyful experiences can be monetized.
- Circle 4 – that which one is good at, including hobbies, skills, talents, or capabilities.
With that in mind, below is a look at how each circle overlaps:
- Where circle 1 and circle 2 overlap, an individual finds their mission.
- Where circle 2 and circle 3 overlap, an individual finds their vocation.
- Where circle 3 and circle 4 overlap, an individual finds their profession.
- Where circle 4 and circle 1 overlap, an individual finds their passion.
- Where mission, vocation, profession, and passion overlap in the center of the diagram, one finds their ikigai or life purpose.
Some key points about ikigai and ikigai diagrams
Here are some things an individual should keep in mind when attempting to discover their life purpose.
Ikigai is not all work and money
Firstly, there is no requirement that ikigai be related to work or money. Many Japanese people pursue their ikigai for as long as their health allows, which may be related to family, a dream, or simply the spiritual belief that life is worth living.
Removing work from the equation means the third circle should also be removed from the diagram.
Ikigai should never be overwhelming
Society places a lot of pressure on people in the West to find their singular life purpose. What’s more, their purpose must be ground-breaking, extraordinary, and unique.
In the East, ikigai is more humble. Instead of a single, lofty goal, there is more of an emphasis on process, immersion, mastery, and sharing this excellence with others.
Ikigai can change or evolve over time
Following on from the previous point, one’s life purpose can be tweaked or changed at any point in life. There is no need to blindly adhere to something no longer working.
The Japanese consider ikigai as something that evolves as people evolve. Many may have several life purposes for this very reason and never let the prospect of change hinder the enjoyment of life.
- An ikigai diagram is a powerful framework for discovering one’s life purpose by considering Japanese philosophy.
- An ikigai diagram is a western misinterpretation of the original Japanese concept. Nevertheless, it remains an important way to help clarify life purpose. This purpose can be found at the intersection of four circles: what one loves, what the world needs, what one can be paid for, and what one is good at.
- There is no requirement for an ikigai diagram to produce a life purpose dominated by work or money. Practitioners who want to develop an ikigai based on family or spirituality can simply omit the third circle from the diagram.
Other Lean Manufacturing Frameworks
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