“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” -John Green
I learned a fascinating concept while traveling through Okinawa, Japan: the locals call it Ikigai, or translated, the reason to live. And if anyone has mastered how to live, it’s the Okinawans. The island is know for having one of the highest quality of life and the largest number of people living to over 100 years old in the world.
So how do I find my Ikigai you ask? It starts with asking yourself these four questions:
- Do I love what I do?
- Am I good at what I do?
- Does the world need what I do?
- Can I support myself from what I do?
When you combine your answers, you should find that “what you love” and “what you’re good at” is your passion; “what you love” and “what the world needs” is your mission; “what you’re good at” and “what you can be paid for” is your profession; and, “what the world needs” and “what you can be paid for” is your vocation.
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. -Henry David Thoreau
These are the cornerstones that make up a fulfilled life, and they all have to be accounted for. When you are not doing what you love, you feel empty; when you are not doing what you are good at, you are uncertain about the future; when you are not doing something the world needs, you feel useless; and, when you are not doing something you can be paid for, you cannot support yourself. When these four cornerstones ring true, you have found your Ikigai.
Steve Jobs hit on the concept perfectly, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Like me, you probably want to dive right in and start checking off the boxes as fast as possible, but unfortunately, that isn’t how the journey toward Ikigai works. It’s a lifelong process and needs continuous adjustment and deep thought. What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning today will most likely be different down the road. This doesn’t mean the journey isn’t exciting though! Like Steve Jobs, always be asking yourself: what do I think needs to change in the world, and how can I use my skills to affect that change?
So, let’s begin! Take out a piece of paper. Yes, NOW. Since you are reading this article, it seems as if have some time on your hands 🙂 Write down your answers to the four questions. It should only take 30 seconds. If you have to think about a question, the answer is probably “No”…
Now, brainstorm ideas that would make these answers “Yes!” Write down anything and everything that comes to mind. The ideas don’t have to be amazing; just write everything down, and you can sort through them after. When you are done, start thinking about how you can take action this week. Why wait? How could anything be more important?
How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself? -Epictetus
And this is where I leave you young grasshopper. Your expedition has begun.
Where are you on your path to Ikigai? I for one know I am no where close. Let me know in the comments below!