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  • Davis Abraham

What Is Your IKIGAI?

What purpose fuels your productivity? In training sessions that I lead, I like to use ikigai to help our clients find a sense of purpose. Ikigai is a popular Japanese framework for thinking about individual direction or purpose in life. It was made popular by the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. To put it simply, ikigai is the reason you wake up every morning.

Ikigai is a simple diagram with four overlapping circles that represent four important aspects of your life.

The first circle is a list of things that you love. It could be a hobby, an interest, a career skill, or an activity that you do to relax and be yourself. What are the things that you enjoy doing? What are the things that come effortlessly to you? Put them down in the first circle.

The second circle is a list of things that you are good at. These are skills that you have picked up or mastered. You can also think about them as the top-five skills you put in a personal resume. What are you really good at? What do people remember you for? Is it your people skills? Managerial skills? Cooking skills? Put them in the second circle.

The third circle is a list of skills for which you can get paid. If you are employed, think about the skills that you are hired for. If you are looking for a job in the near future, think about the skills that you could offer your potential employers. Put these employable skills in the third circle.

In the fourth circle, make a list of world needs that you are concerned about. We live in a needy world. What does your heart break for? What makes you concerned? Is it the environment or child labor or corruption or malnutrition or suicidal youth? How do you want to make a difference in the world? List them in the fourth circle.

The four circles make multiple overlaps creating shared spaces between each circle. The shared spaces shed light on four aspects of your life: passion, profession, vocation, and mission.

The overlap between what you love to do and what you are good at is your passion. To be passionate about something means that you enjoy doing it and are quite skilled in it. Look at your circles 1 & 2 for things you are passionate about.

The overlap between what you are good at and what you can be paid for is called your profession. You bring skills and human resources into your work and get paid for the services you offer. Look at your circles 2 & 3 for skills you are good at and can get paid for.

The overlap between what you can get paid for and what the world needs is called vocation. These are things that you want to do because you are convinced about the value addition it brings to the people you serve. What are some world needs for which you can lend your time and skills? Money is not the key motivator here and it could be a full-time, part-time, or even voluntary involvement. Look at circles 3 & 4 for such potential opportunities.

The final overlap is between things you love to do and what the world needs. It is called mission. This is a purely voluntary involvement that you do sheerly out of love for doing it. What are things that you enjoy doing that can contribute to solving world needs around you? Look at circles 1 & 4 to find avenues for your mission.

All these four circles are helpful pointers to what matters in your life in varying degrees of importance. Ikigai is right at the center of these circles. It is a sweet spot where all these aspects of life converge.

To be productive, it is important to start with the “why” of your life. Ikigai is a helpful framework to find the answer to that question for you.

Remember, purpose fuels productivity. So, what is your ikigai?

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