The turn of the year sees a spike in clients seeking coaching. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people use the season to start asking important questions about what gives their lives meaning, whether they are living their values, and if not, what to do about it. There are no easy answers to these big questions, but a framework can help. One I often introduce is the Japanese concept of Ikigai. Relatively unheard of in the west until recently, Ikigai is the title of a popular little book on the subject published last fall. I haven't read the book so can't vouch for the content but, again, I find the framework useful for any of us trying to find (and stay on) our path.
Often translated as the Japanese version of 'raison d'être' or 'reason for being,' The word literally combines 'iki' (life) with 'gai' (value or worth) and is often depicted as a venn diagram of four overlapping considerations: 1/what you love, 2/what the world needs, 3/what you can be paid for and 4/what you are good at. (See accompanying image). It is important to note that one thing (say, job) need not satisfy all. Indeed, in one Japanese study, it was found that only 31% of participants found their Ikigai through work. Some of my clients find that their job satisfies two of the circles - 'what are you good at?' and 'what you can be paid for' - but need to look outside of work to meet the others. The converse is true as well. An activist friend does what she loves and what she feels the world needs but has to supplement her 'day job' with other sources of income. What matters most is whether our actions in aggregate take all considerations into account. I particularly like this little model as it captures the heart ('what you love') and the head/realities of modern living ('what you can be paid for'). Sometimes (often?) striking the balance can be tricky but it is still worth trying....and certainly always worth listening to both.
Coupled with a healthy diet, Ikigai is credited as one reason the Japanese are among the longest-living nationalities in the world. But beyond length of life is quality of life, and Ikigai helps people find value and meaning in everyday living. In that sense, it can be thought of as an extension of logotherapy, Victor Frankl's existential approach to therapy founded on the premise that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose. (Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is a book I have read and would recommend).
I don't want to overcomplicate what seems like a fairly straightforward model so will leave it there. The real value, I find, is in what we do with the information: Self-assessment, i.e., looking at where one falls with regard to the framework. Jotting down notes. What currently fulfils one or the other 'circles'? What could bring me more? Where are there gaps? What can I do about it? Maybe print out the diagram and give it a go? Happy self-coaching!
Ikigai is one of the frameworks we will be discussing at our upcoming Psychology of Money workshop to be held 10 March at W11 Wellbeing in Holland Park. For more information, contact email@example.com