Find Your ‘Ikigai’: 4 Lifelines That Give You Purpose and Happiness
After my recent blog post on self care for female entrepreneurs, I came across an ancient concept for finding purpose and happiness. We all want happiness but most of us have no idea what to do to achieve it.
Should we focus on making more money?
Should we focus on pursuing our passions?
Should we give up all of our material possessions and become a monk in the mountains?
Everyone seems to have a different take on it. In this article, I'm gonna give you a definite answer by showing you a proven formula that has been around for hundreds of years:
A formula for happiness.
The Japanese have this concept called ‘ikigai’ - which roughly translates into “a reason for being.”
They believe that in order for you to be happy you need to spend your time doing something with ikigai - a purpose for being here.
But this is easier said than done because there are four components that you need to check off in order to achieve ikigai. Without all four, you will never truly be happy.
Component 1: Something You Love
The first component is something that you love.
We all have things that make us feel good, things that make us stop thinking for short periods of time to just be present and aware of what's happening in front of us. The more technical people will call this “flow state” but the majority of us call it love.
That's why so many of us enjoy the arts, drawing, dancing, singing, reading; because it takes us into a state of bliss where we start to feel good and are focused on the task in front of us.
That's why some of us fall in love with one another because being with that person allows us to forget about all the other problems in our lives - at least momentarily.
I don't need to get into too much detail about this component because we know in our gut when we truly love to do something. It's a feeling that we humans all share.
Component 2: Something The World Needs
The second component for ikigai is a little bit more tricky. It needs to be something that the world needs.
We've been hardwired to feel good when we feel needed in a community.
Back in the day of hunters and gatherers, this was easy.
Everyone played an important part: because the cook was just as important as the hunter, and the builder was just as important as the caretaker.
Back then, whenever you put in work you could see the immediate positive effects your efforts had on others, but this isn't the case nowadays. Most of us work in offices, being given small roles in a massive company where, even if we work our butts off, it's hard to see the positive effects our work has on the rest of the world.
It feels like our work isn't really helping anyone. It feels like if we quit our job one day, no one would even care. And sadly, nothing would change.
You need to find something you can do that will create a visible positive effect on those around you.
Component 3: Something You Can Get Paid For
The third component for ikigai is something that you can get paid well for.
Now, I know right out the gate some of you are automatically going to say something like “you don't need money in order to be happy” and so on.
But let's be real: money is what puts a roof over your head, food in your mouth, and clothes on your body.
Without enough money, you're gonna spend the majority of your time stressed out of your mind wondering how you're going to get by.
And it's not enough to just be making some money - you need to be getting paid well enough to live a comfortable life so it really depends on where you live.
You could live like a king off of 30,000 ringgit a year in some countries but in a place in a city like Singapore, that would barely be enough to cover your rent.
If you're not making enough money to live without stress then you will never achieve happiness.
Component 4: Something You’re Good At
The fourth and final component you need to have in order to achieve ikigai is... something that you're good at.
Now, this doesn't mean that you need to be born with talent. This actually means that you're able to put in the time and effort in order to get better at the skill.
Let's say for example you want to become a motivational speaker. When you first get started, you're terrible - you have stage fright, you stutter a lot, or you forget what you're supposed to say.
But over time, you start to overcome these obstacles. You start getting applause from the audience.
Ancient “Ikigai” + The Modern Career Woman = Life-Changing
That's what it means to be good at something. Not to be good from the get-go but to be able to overcome obstacles and improve at this skill. This ‘overcoming of obstacles’ creates a very fulfilling feeling inside of you which is why it's such a crucial component of ikigai.
Now the interesting thing about this Japanese formula is that you can tell where you are in life and what you need to work on by looking at the components you have so far.
If all you have is something that you love and are good at, then you have what's called a passion. People who fall into this category are include aspiring singers and artists.
Sometimes, the main thing stopping you from being happy is the fact that you aren't getting paid enough for your skills and nobody seems to notice your talent. If you find yourself in this category, then you need to focus on marketing yourself so that you can start getting paid well.
On the other hand, if you have something that you love and you believe the world needs it, then you have what's called a mission. The people who fall into this category include activists who talk about things like saving the planet or going vegan.
These are people who want to see positive change in the world but they aren't able to convince people to join their cause. If you're in this category, you need to focus on getting better at your craft, figuring out how to convince people instead of just stating your opinion loudly.
Lastly, if you're someone who has a skill or talent that you can get paid well for, then you have what most people in the world have, which is a profession - that boring 9-to-5 job that pays the bills.
What's stopping you from happiness is the fact that you don't love your work or see how any of this can actually make a difference in the world. If you find yourself in this category, then you need to try out new things and figure out what it is that you truly love doing.
And finally, if you get paid well and it's something that you know can help the world, then you have what's called a vocation. A good example of people with a vocation are professors. They get paid really well and their job has a positive effect on the world.
They're raising the future generation but they often fall into the bad habit of teaching the same things every single year which stalls their improvement. If you find yourself in this category, you need to make sure that you are constantly getting better at your job and challenging yourself.
Remember, in order to be truly happy with your life you need to achieve ikigai. You need to be spending your time doing something that you love, that you can get better at, that pays well, and that the world needs.
Without all four, you will always feel like you're missing something from within you.
Best of luck searching for your ikigai,