Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase and thought, “Sure – I’d love to do that; to have a job that is so enjoyable, it doesn't feel like work; to spend my time on activities that are personally meaningful; and, to use my skills and talents to make a positive difference in the world.” If you’ve thought along these lines, you’re not alone. According to dozens of women I've interviewed across the U.S., women’s ideas of success and fulfillment expand over time. In our 20s and 30s, we tend to define a successful life as making money, holding an important title, or other professional achievements. But in our 40s and 50s, our priorities shift toward doing what we love, helping others, and positively impacting society. The big question is, how can we bridge this gap, to live more authentically while providing for the needs of our loved ones and ourselves?
The good news is that doing what you love and working for a living are not mutually exclusive. You can have both! A popular method to achieve the balance you desire is through Ikigai.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that relates to holistic well-being, fueled by life purpose. The phrase is loosely translated as “reason for being,” that contributes meaning, joy, and fulfillment to life.
Discovering your Ikigai begins with 4 big questions:
1. What do you love to do? Close your eyes and think about the activities or experiences that bring you immense joy. Your list may include things you would do if money wasn’t a consideration, such as singing, cooking, mentoring, or other activities that light you up inside. Or, think back to childhood. What activities did you most often gravitate toward?
2. What are you good at? These are your talents, skills, and capabilities; things you do well naturally or have mastered over time. Here, consider what you do better than most, such as athletics, writing, or listening. If you're unsure, it may be helpful to ask others what strengths they see in you.
3. What does the world need? Communities – large and small – grapple with many economic, social, environmental, and political challenges. Take a few minutes to identify pressing problems that require solutions. For help, watch the news and pay attention to issues that tug on your heart.
4. What can you get paid for? In this realm, identify professions that relate to the aspects you previously identified. Consider what opportunities you can pursue that combine what you love, your skills, and what the world needs.
How Ikigai works:
Once you have answered the four questions, it’s time to analyze where the dimensions overlap, as follows:
· Your passion is found at the intersection between what you love and what you’re good at.
· Your mission arises when you compare what you love to what the world needs.
· Your vocation is identified when you consider what the world needs and what you can be paid for.
· Your profession becomes obvious when evaluating what you’re good at in relation to what you can be paid for.
Finding your Ikigai
You may have noticed that one space remains in the center. This is your Ikigai: where your passion, mission, vocation, and profession converge. Think deeply about this, and expect that what is authentically right for you will vary from that of others. And that’s the whole point. The key to fulfilling your purpose is not found through consensus or the world’s opinion of what is right for you. It derives from within.
Take some time for yourself to get in touch with your Ikigai. Get started today!
Gaines, Jeffrey. The philosophy of Ikigai: 3 examples about finding purpose. Positive Psychology.com. Jan 2021.
Myers, Chris. How to find your Ikigai and transform your outlook on life and business. Forbes.com. Feb 2018.