Ikigai – Finding Your “Reason For Being”


I stumbled across the concept of ikigai in Japanese culture – loosely translated as “reason for being” – in this Medium post. The Venn diagram above appears to be taken from this Toronto Star article (which is based on another work, and so on…). The graphic suggests that we asks ourselves these questions to find our ikigai:

  • What do you love?
  • What are you good at?
  • What does the world need from you?
  • What can you get paid for?

In other words, Ikagai is not just your passion or something that makes you happy. I searched for deeper explanations and found this BBC article with the most satisfying one:

Ikigai is what allows you to look forward to the future even if you’re miserable right now.

I was reminded of this previously-mentioned Venn diagram by Bud Caddell regarding finding the right job:


In essence, the question “What does the world need from you?” is collapsed into “What can you get paid for?” above. If you’re looking for the ideal job, then I suppose that is a good shortcut.

However, not everyone’s reason for waking up every morning involves money. The BBC article cites a 2010 survey of 2,000 Japanese men and women where just 31% of participants cited work as their ikigai. That means for 69% of Japanese people, their ikigai is something else. Family, friends, community, a hobby, a volunteer position.

Food for thought.


  1. I have been practicing this without knowing it!
    I could have picked a profession which I have slightly more liking for
    but not without sacrificing a significant amount of earning potential.

    end result is I chose my 2nd favorite thing to do as my profession
    and I can surely say I am very happy that I did so.

  2. Not the point of this exactly but I thought it was really encouraging for a work obsessed Japanese culture that a decent percentage of those polled define their ikigai as not their work. I’m hoping that it leads to a bit more balance. I’ve got friends working there and though I’ve always had a strong work ethic, the expectations for them even take me aback!

  3. I think its a good concept. I also like the point that people don’t necessarily find their Ikigai in their jobs.

    However, to nitpick… I think the graphic might paint a unrealistic picture. I think theres much more overlap in the 4 items. For example, the graphic seems to imply that you can only be paid for about 1/2 of what the world needs, or conversely that 1/2 of the jobs aren’t needed. But I’d counter that 90%+ of what the world needs is stuff that you can be paid for and 90%+ jobs are necessary things. Of course I don’t think we’re supposed to take the graphic as drawn “to scale” but its just to illustrate the point. However as it is, the graphic makes it look like finding Ikigai is very rare as it occupies a small % of all things.

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