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Ikigai Framework

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Purpose gives people a sense of what really matters in their lives and drives them.  It is a deep and personal understanding of what they aim to achieve and how their actions contribute to a greater goal or fulfillment.  It is what makes them feel motivated and empowered.

Purpose involves aligning personal aspirations with a broader context, such as contributing to society, making a positive impact, or nurturing meaningful relationships.  A sense of purpose is a personal and subjective concept that varies greatly from person to person and may evolve throughout one’s lifetime.

Purpose helps people navigate crises better and alleviate the detrimental impacts of stress in their lives. People with a clear sense of purpose are likely to be far more resilient than their directionless counterparts and have been reported to have significantly higher levels of well-being.

A sense of purpose is the foundation of the Ikigai Framework.  The Ikigai Framework, which originated in Japan, is used as a tool for self-reflection and personal development.  The word “Ikigai” is a combination of two words: “iki,” which means life, and “kai,” for value or usefulness.  Thus, the word roughly translates to “reason for being” in English.

Ikigai is one of the key reasons why most Japanese people get up in the morning.  Their purpose in life keeps them happy and helps them live a long life.  Japan has one of the highest ratios of people aging beyond a century, and their personal Ikigai plays a key role in their longevity.

The Ikigai Framework and Japanese culture have been under study by the West for a long time.  The framework encompasses 4 key elements of life:

  1. Passion
  2. Mission
  3. Vocation
  4. Profession

Understanding the 4 elements of Ikigai acts as a guiding light in discovering your purpose in life.  You can find your Ikigai at the junction where each of the 4 fundamental elements of life overlap.  Let’s delve deeper into some of these elements.

Passion

Passion refers to the things that you love, enjoy, and feel deeply about. It represents a person’s inner fire—the activities or pursuits that make her or him feel alive and engaged.

Discovering your passion requires reflecting on the activities or hobbies that you naturally gravitate towards—those that make you lose track of time or evoke a strong emotional response.  Passion is closely aligned with personal values and beliefs.  When your activities and pursuits are in harmony with what you consider meaningful, it reinforces your passion and sense of purpose.

In order to know what you love, you should choose an enjoyable activity that makes you feel happy and that you would undertake voluntarily at any moment; for instance, cooking, writing, painting, gardening, photography, and so on.

Mission

This element involves identifying activities or goals that align with your passions, interests, and talents while also addressing a need and making a positive impact on the world around you.

Mission in the Ikigai Framework lies at the intersection of what you love—personal passions, interests, and the activities that bring us joy and fulfillment and resonate with our values and strengths—and what the world needs—understanding the needs, problems, or challenges present in the world or within a specific community.  It involves identifying areas where we can make a positive impact, contribute, or bring about meaningful change.

Vocation

The framework outlines that simply enjoying our work and being skilled at it are insufficient.  The Vocation element emphasizes the importance of fair compensation for individuals work.  The work that we enjoy doing should enable us to put food on the table and clothing on our backs.

This element of Ikigai lies at the intersection of what the world needs—identifying the needs or problems around the world and understanding the areas where we can make a positive impact—and what we can be paid for—recognizing skills, expertise, or knowledge that have market value and for which people are willing to pay us.

Interested in learning more about the other elements of the Ikigai Framework? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on Ikigai Framework here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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