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  • Writer's pictureDr. Edith Öller

Discover your IKIGAI: a path to a fulfilled life

Living a mindful, meaningful and fulfilling life is the goal of more and more people around the world.

In a world that is constantly changing and characterized by hectic pace and stress, many people are looking for a deeper meaning and a fulfilling way of life. A fascinating philosophy that is becoming increasingly important in this context is the Japanese concept of "IKIGAI". This article will explore the term IKIGAI, my own experiences, and how it can help us live balanced and fulfilling lives..

Origin of the term "IKIGAI":

IKIGAI is a word from Japanese culture and is composed of the terms "iki" (life) and "gai" (value). It describes what makes life worth living. The origins of the concept can be traced back to the inhabitants of the island of Okinawa, who are known for their long life expectancy and health and are therefore considered one of the "Blue Zones", the areas with the longest life expectancy in the world.

The four elements of IKIGAI:

  1. What you love: This is about what brings you joy and what you are passionate about.

  2. What the World Needs: This component refers to how you can use your skills and passions to make a positive contribution to the world.

  3. What you get paid for: It's important that what you do is not only meaningful, but also meets your financial needs.

  4. What you are good at: This refers to developing skills and competencies to be successful at what you do.

The benefit of IKIGAI:

The CONCEPT of IKIGAI is a valuable guide for those who are looking for a deeper meaning in life. By balancing your passions, callings, professions, and purpose, you can not only live a fulfilling life, but also contribute to a better world. Let's use this Japanese secret to discover our IKIGAI and create a life full of meaning.

My personal experience with IKIGAI:

Fascinated by the concept of IKIGAI, I wanted to explore it myself and find my personal “IKIGAI”. I not only relied on online research, but also read the bestseller "IKIGAI, the Japanese secret to a long and happy life" (see source below!), which not only explains the concept of IKIGAI, but also other teachings, such as Viktor Frankl's logotherapy.

The book does not - as I expected - provide a clear step-by-step guide to finding your own IKIGAI, but it gave me another crucial insight: the search for “the one” purpose in life should not be frantic, and There are several elements that can contribute to a fulfilling life.

Online, on many websites and blogs, I found the representation of IKIGAI as a “flower” of several overlapping circles with a simple description, but unfortunately no source that gives concrete instructions that are sufficient for me and asks specific questions about all areas of IKIGAI. I have also tried online tools for interactive evaluation, but without any satisfactory results for me. This inspired me to formulate my own reflection questions to cover all relevant fields before I begin my journey. In order to flexibly record, assign and rearrange my thoughts, I decided to create a workspace or a template on a MIRO board.

Based on my findings from reading the book, I also wanted to list some important dimensions that "can make life worth living" as a "reminder" and inspiration, such as social contacts and nature. Because the IKIGAI can be multi-layered and relate to different areas of life connect.

From my own experience I can say that when I filled out the template and answered the questions, I didn't really proceed in a structured and sequential manner, but rather chaotically and intuitively. In general, it was easier for me to “work” from the outside in and start with the big areas, such as “What I love” and “What the world needs,” and then gradually work my way to the overlaps - including individual points to be moved and reclassified again.

I've found it helpful to create a „thought storage" to help me capture ideas that I can't immediately place.

Another important aspect of my process is realizing that I don't have to answer every question. The questions only serve as a reminder and guide. Some dimensions found it easier for me to define content, while others were more challenging. But here too I realized that not all dimensions necessarily have to be answered, or that the whole thing is generally an ongoing process and I can add new aspects or reclassify them at any time.

The entire process reminds me of a business model canvas for my life. It will change, remain flexible and not rigid. Life and my values, especially curiosity, creativity and connection, will make me constantly "pivot" and include new aspects and re-evaluate things.

For me, working with my IKIGAI was and is a step towards self-knowledge. It's not about finding the "one true calling" in the "all-dimensional" IKIGAI, but rather identifying aspects in several areas of life that I would like to occupy myself with, for example in my free time or with which I would like to contribute to the community.

The „flower“ model of IKIGAI:

Graphically, the IKIGAI model is usually represented as a kind of flower with the dimensions mentioned above (what you love, what the world needs, what you can get paid for, what you are good at). The circles overlap and create additional dimensions:

  • Mission

  • Vocation

  • Profession

  • Passion

The IKIGAI is located right in the center, as a “sweet spot” so to speak, which combines all dimensions.

My personal template/canvas of IKIGAI:

I put together the reflection questions to help me. They serve as a guide, but can be supplemented and expanded.

Here you can find the English version:

Have fun with it and have a good journey to your „inner self“ 😊.


Further Literature & Sources:

  • Evans, D. (2019). "The Little Book of Ikigai: The Secret Japanese Way to Live a Happy and Long Life." HarperOne.

The book is a easy to read introduction of the concept of IKIGAI-Konzept and explains how it can be introduced in western life.

  • García, H., & Miralles, F. (2017). "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life." Penguin Random House.

The authors examine the lifestyles of Okinawans and show how the IKIGAI principle can contribute to a fulfilling life.

  • O'Connor, M. (2018). "Ikigai: The Japanese Art of a Meaningful Life." Penguin Random House.

Mary O'Connor offers an in-depth analysis of the IKIGAI concept and presents practical approaches to integrating it into your own everyday life.


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