I grew up in a very business-oriented family. I understood business somewhat better than most other people in my friend circle. As I went on in my career, I realized I had multiple interests and talents. When the time came to settle down, I could never figure out a concrete answer to the question of my purpose in life.
There are times when we contemplate what we have been doing and what we want ultimately. Times like these are pretty frustrating and lead to a lot of confusion. Isn’t mental peace or clarity of mind what we want from our lives eventually? The thought of being stuck in something that doesn’t go in line with our purpose and goals is pretty disheartening.
To survive in this competitive world, we have to do something that is praised by others and also something that can be monetized. Even if you successfully manage to find something that solves these two aspects, you may gradually realize you don’t enjoy doing it or are not an expert at it. We all hope to reach a state in life where all the aspects – passion, profession, mission, and vocation – meet in the right balance.
This is when I was introduced to the Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’ (pronounced as ‘eye-ka-guy’). This is a state of balance where your passions match your talents and fall into something that the world needs and will pay for. This seemed like an unreal state to me, because it seemed too unreal to be true.
Let us first try to understand what Ikigai is as a concept.
As you can see, there are four major circles. Each has a separate yet crucial question we must ask ourselves. They are:
- What are you good at?
- What can you be paid for?
- What does the world need?
- What do you love?
Understand what each of these aspects means to you. Jot the answers down in a paper or in your mind. Now, look at the intersections of these circles with each other. These are the areas made by overlapping of two of the circles mentioned above:
- What you are good at, and what you can be paid for, equals Profession.
- What you can be paid for, and what the world needs, equals Vocation.
- What the world needs, and what you love doing, equals Mission.
- What you love doing, and what you are good at, equals Passion.
Upon further introspection, you will understand that being in either of the above states would also mean two other aspects aren’t fulfilled. Take the example of someone who loves cooking and is probably making meals for the poor for cheap rates. That is a mission, which means he/she may not be good at it, but also not getting paid for this work.
Notice closely and you will see that the four – passion, mission, vocation, and profession – also merge at a common area. When three aspects (three bigger circles) meet, there is still something missing in life.
- What you love, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for meet to give satisfaction, but the feeling of usefulness isn’t there.
- What you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs meet to give comfort, but a feeling of emptiness.
- What you can be paid for, what the world needs, and what you love doing meet to give excitement, but a sense of uncertainty.
- What the world needs, what you love doing, and what you are good at meet to give delight and fullness, but no wealth.
Take the example of a successful CEO or CTO. They are most probably doing something they are good at and love doing too. Luckily for them, people are willing to pay them for that. They might be feeling satisfied, but they also understand that they are not contributing to their social obligations.
Take the example of Sachin Tendulkar. He is a cricketer who played his favourite sport, cricket. Cricket is something he was good at, he got paid nicely for playing cricket, and the world (India) wanted him to play as he brought laurels to the country.
I have explained Ikigai further in my vlogs, and you can understand it even better through the video below (in Hindi):
Now, this is how you can apply Ikigai on yourself.
This is super easy. Try to fill the Ikigai chart for yourself, focusing on the big four circles. Try doing this without linking your thoughts with practicality or social acceptance or situations around you. Think of these circles independently and try to fill them up. Take, for example, what I filled for myself:
- What are you good at? – Digital Marketing
- What can you be paid for? – Teaching, Counselling, Consulting
- What does the world need? – Free education
- What do you love? – Public speaking
When I started PagePotato, it was mostly a B2B business which involved client interaction initially and then handling their projects. During that time, I always felt that there is something missing, and after drawing my Ikigai circle, I realized that my work did not cover two circles (Free education and Public speaking), and only two circles were getting fulfilled (Digital Marketing (during project handling) and Teaching, Counselling, Consulting (during business development when I used to talk to the clients)).
After realizing that two of my circles were not getting fulfilled, I started a social venture with the name Learn And Teach Anything For Free in which I started conducting free workshops. This gave me the opportunity to fulfil my public speaking desire, and I also knew that I was doing something which the world wants (Free education). This is how I fulfilled my Ikigai.
The ideal case would be if you can find work which connects all four circles (like in the above example of Sachin Tendulkar), but trust me, it is difficult and not always the case. In such circumstances, try to find different kinds of work and allocate some days, or maybe some man-hours in a day, to fulfil your missing circles. I bet you will feel a lot more satisfied, as I feel now.