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Ikigai

 Source: Avik Chatterjee

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept which literally consists of ‘iki’ (to live) and ‘gai ‘(reason) and means « a reason for being » – equivalent to the Western concept of « purpose » or raison d’être as one says in French – at the very center of four dimensions: what we love, what we are good at, what the world needs and what we can be paid for. In other words, it is more fulfilling and rewarding than passion, mission, profession and vocation separately.

Psychiatrist Mieko Kamiya, explains that ikigai is what allows you to look forward to the future whatever the way you feel right now. It is what gives you strength, resilience and hope when tragedy occurs. Whatever it may be, it is a source of energy and inner light.

Of course, your ikigai may differ from what you do to make a living. And this is absolutely fine as it can help you find your own balance. However, finding your own ikigai and living it daily is a way to secure a fruitful life and – potentially – a flourishing career as well. It is also how you could find pleasure in your current work, or a direction you would choose to realign your career. Dan Buettner formulates the hypothesis in a Ted Talk it would even be a way to live longer.

Coaching surely can help you identifying your ikigai.

In his book Ikigai, the Essential Japanese Way to Finding Your Purpose in Life, neuroscientist Ken Mogi suggests to start asking yourself three questions to find the first clues that will help you find it:

  • What are your most sentimental values?
  • What are the small things that give you pleasure?
  • What are the small things in the deep swamp of your mind that will carry you through a difficult patch?

Going further, you can ask yourself additional questions to detect and explore the components of your own ikigai:

  • What did you like doing when you were a child?
  • And what would the 12-year-old say about you if he saw you now?
  • Today, what absorbs you so much that you forget to eat and drink?
  • Which activities put a smile on your face and light in your eyes?
  • What would you put in your suitcase if you decided to go exploring the world?
  • What would your activities be like if every single morning you would be forced to leave your home and were not allowed to come back before the evening?
  • What is easy for you to do?
  • What are your talents?
  • On which of your activities are you complimented?
  • If you were living in an ideal world, what would it look like?
  • Which values would you like to see more often?

Answering those questions and digging into the material you will collect is the first step of a beautiful journey, no matter how long it takes. So let yourself be surprised by the destination. This is why Ken Mogi also set the framework of ikigai which he presents as being based on five pillars. Pillars that we would also present as benchmarks for your progress.

  • Start small, keeping in mind that life needs evolution not revolution
  • Release yourself, accepting who you are, eminently distinct from your ego
  • Pursue harmony and sustainability. Time and integration are key
  • Enjoy little things, the sum of them is priceless.
  • Be in the here and now, mindfully

From theory to practice and to observe the concept of ikigai in action, we invite you to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a 2011 American documentary film directed by David Gelb. The film follows Jiro Ono (小野 二郎 Ono Jirō), a 91-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant. Sukiyabashi Jiro is a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station and Jiro Ono is the oldest living three-Michelin-star chef. Dining in this restaurant is like experiencing with your five physical senses a perfectly well orchestrated choreography raising from a life dedicated to talent and perseverance.

Here are a few quotes coming from this film…

« There are some who are born with a natural gift. Some have a sensitive palate and sense of smell. That’s what you call « natural talent ». In this line of business, if you take it seriously, you’ll become skilled. But if you want to make a mark in the world, you have to have talent. The rest depends on how hard you work. »

« All I want to do is make better sushi. I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is. »

« Always doing what you are told doesn’t mean you’ll succeed in life. » 

« If I stopped working at 85, I would be bored out of my mind… I have been able to carry on with the same job for 75 years. It’s hard to slow down. I guess I’m in the last stretch of the race. »

« Always try to elevate your craft. »

 

 

And you, what is your ikigai?

 

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