graphic of ikigai reason for being

Is Your Work Your Reason for Being?

I recently learned about the Japanese concept of IKIGAI.  The word roughly translates to mean “Reason for Being.”  The concept cautions us to bring four important aspects of our focus together in a way to benefit both us and the world.

First, it looks at four common questions to approach a career choice:

  1. What do you love?
  2. What does the world need?
  3. What can you get paid to do?
  4. What are you good at doing?

I don’t know about you, but my career counseling and choices barely got those questions answered.  However, this Japanese principal digs deeper to explore the meaning of the answers to these questions:

  • Between what you love and what the world needs is your MISSION.
  • Between what the world needs and what you can be paid to do is your VOCATION.
  • Between what you can be paid for and what you are good at you’ll find a PROFESSION.
  • Between what you are good at and what you love is your PASSION

Processing this information allows us to really grasp our “Reason for Being” in a way western traditional career counseling misses the concept all together.  I think today’s millennials have a better grasp for this level of balance than my baby-boomer generation, but still there is a lot missing in understanding how important the relationships of these aspects are to our long-term happiness.

One of the charts I found on IKIGAI takes the analysis another step further.  I find it very interesting.  This is my take on what I saw in their graphic.  When you get caught in a place where two aspects of the IKIGAI intersect, but do not include all four, it can lead to a work life less satisfying than you wanted.  It is a place where many authority level experts find themselves.  I will talk more about their predicament in a moment, but first let me try to describe what I comprehended.

  • When we get caught between our Passion and Mission, we are likely to find delight and fullness, but no wealth.
  • When we get caught between our Mission and Vocation, we are likely to experience excitement and complacency, but also a sense of uncertainty.
  • When we get caught between our Vocation and Profession, we might feel comfortable, but also have a feeling of emptiness.
  • When we get caught between our Profession and Passion, we may feel satisfaction, but also feel useless.

Never Too Late for IKIGAI

I must admit, I meet incredible experts every day in my line of work as a professional ghostwriter.  What I observe is these men and women have achieved amazing success, but they are trapped in some way by the way the work shows up in their lives.  Maybe they need more passion at this point in their lives because they have been caught between their Vocation and Profession.  They may be trapped in another place standing in the way of being fully satisfied with their professional life.

Reinventing themselves as a nonfiction book author allows them to express their passion in new ways and bring delight and fullness into their experience.  Becoming a book author opens up a multitude of possibilities for them.  Possibilities never offered by their current professional duties.  Being a book author allows each individual to create something incredible out of their lives and spend their remaining years knowing they have experienced their own personal “reason for being” – their IKIGAI.