Ikigai is the Japanese term/concept which roughly translates as “to discover your inner purpose” and “reason for getting up in the morning”. And is something that we are fully here for.
Ikigai encourages us to embrace the connection between our passions and the greater good. To live realistically, sustainably, and harmoniously with ourselves and the planet. According to the philosophy, everyone has an Ikigai. And, whether you’ve found yours or are still searching, everybody carries it within them.
Does Purpose make a real difference?
It is easy to dismiss a feeling of ‘purpose’ as abstract and superfluous. But in 2017, a group of scientists took to Kyotango, Japan, to conduct research into why the town is home to one of the highest concentrations of centenarians (people aged 100+) globally. They found one single thing all participants had in common: a hobby that was practised every single day which they felt passionately about.
Participants also all displayed extremely high levels of DHEA. A hormone secreted by the adrenal glands which is believed to be the longevity hormone. Not yet scientifically proven, the pursuit of a passion or hobby is now often correlated with increased levels of DHEA, and in turn, a longer and more meaningful way of life.
The study participants were well into retirement age, but for those of us who aren’t quite there yet, passion and purpose can instead be found in the workplace. In fact, a 2019 study by LinkedIn revealed that 74% of job seekers want a job in which their work feels purposeful.
So, finding your purpose can not only make you happier but help you live longer, great stuff. But, how do you find your Ikigai?
How to use Ikigai to discover your inner purpose.
Ikigai can be understood through a framework of four P’s: passion, problem-solving, profit and purpose. Your Ikigai is the intersection of the four P’s, and to find it you have to ask yourself:
What do you love? What are you good at? What can you be paid for? And finally, what does the world need?
To start cultivating your ikigai, make a list under each ‘P’. Where any of your answers are able to intersect, you’ve identified a potential Ikigai.
Big stuff. As an example…
So let’s say you’ve identified that you’re passionate about sustainability, and you have experience in sales and marketing. Next, you explore the mediums through which you can express that passion (and this is where things get really interesting).
Environmental impact companies such as Koa, a sustainable cocoa company, and Ecoligo, a renewable energy company, are in need of people with sales and marketing expertise. Whatever your skillset, it can be applied purposefully. Often, passion and profit can be pursued through employment, and if your employer is one who shares your purpose then you’re on your way to Ikigai; and so are they.
Or there’s Toast Ale, a perfect example of how the four P’s – passion, problem-solving, profit and purpose – can manifest to develop delightfully creative solutions to the problems we face. The craft beer brand was born out of climate change concern. Driven by the fact that food production is amongst the biggest contributors to climate change and inspired by the realisation that 44% of bread goes to waste, Toast Ale brews beer from surplus bread as a means of curbing waste.
The happiness advantage.
It’s so easy to find yourself stuck in a ‘live for the weekend’ mindset. Where work is a burden or chore that just “pays the bills”. Some of us live with the belief that success precedes happiness. But is this good for anyone?
According to a Harvard Business Review article by Shawn Anchor, an expert on how happiness and success are connected, the answer is “no”. Anchor’s research shows that when employees feel happy and purposeful at work, performance improves across the board as productivity, engagement and creativity are enhanced. Anchor calls this the “happiness advantage” – every business outcome is enhanced by a positive mindset. A happiness poll carried out by Wrike, a work management platform, shows that meaningful work is the strongest determinant of employee happiness.
So, it’s pretty clear that purpose = empowerment in the workplace.
Meaningful employment is increasingly highly sought after. Purpose, is ultimately what differentiates your average company from one with integrity, innovativeness, and a fulfilled workforce. Where organisations lack a sense of collective purpose, employees are simply hired for their time. However, when employment is driven by purpose employees are hired for their optimism, innovativeness and unique contribution to organisational ethos.
Putting your Ikigai inner purpose into practice.
Finding your Ikigai doesn’t necessarily mean embarking on a huge career change or evolving into an entrepreneur overnight. Try talking to your boss and redefining or confirming your purpose. Or find a hobby that could turn into a side-hustle that could become your future career. Start by observing the small things that bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to recognise their relevance to the bigger picture.
It’s easy to dismiss purpose as a luxury. but the concept can be transformative for businesses, employees and job-hunters alike. What you’re passionate about, what you’re good at and what is profitable might seem completely distant from each other. But when you think through the lens of Ikigai, a world of possibilities becomes apparent.