Discovering your reason for being is an elusive undertaking for many. But finding it is essential–and can be very rewarding. In this episode, James talks about the concept of ikigai, how to unlock it and how it can impact your life and your business.
Ikigai Re-Explained. The TRUE Meaning of Ikigai
“Ikigai,” is a term that has gained popularity in the West, but its true meaning has often been misunderstood.
Initially introduced as a diagram where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect, the Western interpretation of Ikigai doesn’t fully capture its essence as understood by the Japanese.
The Japanese view Ikigai as finding joy, satisfaction, and a sense of purpose in the activities and roles they engage in daily. It’s not about achieving grand ambitions or following a predetermined formula, but rather about embracing what brings deep satisfaction and contentment.
Finding one’s Ikigai is important, regardless of external expectations or societal pressures, and focusing on the simple joys and meaningful experiences can lead to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
Discover our initial understanding of Ikigai in the original podcast below:
In this podcast:
01:09 – What is ikigai?
04:01 – How to find it
06:31 – The benefits of ikigai in health and longevity
07:55 – How ikigai impacts your business
09:30 – Questions to ask yourself
10:17 – If you’re miles away from where you’d like to be…
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James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. Today, I want to talk to you about finding your reason for being. We’re going to delve into ikigai. Now, that’s about finding your life purpose. That can be very rewarding, but also it seems elusive for many. You may have heard it talked about in different contexts, and I’ll cover a few of the places that I found it, today in this episode.
What is ikigai?
So what is ikigai? If you look up Wikipedia, you’ll find out that it’s actually the story of the dying woman. It’s the concept of ikigai from a short story in Japan.
In a small village outside of Osaka, a woman in a coma was dying. She suddenly had a feeling that she was taken up to heaven and stood before the voice of her ancestors.
“Who are you?” The Voice said to her.
“I am the wife of the mayor,” she replied. “I did not ask whose wife you are but who you are.” “I am the mother of four children.” “I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.” “I am a school teacher.” “I did not ask what your profession is but who you are.”
And so it went. No matter what she replied, she did not seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”
“I am a Shinto.” “I did not ask what your religion is but who you are.” “I am the one who wakes up each day to care for my family, and nurture the young minds of the children at my school.”
She passed the examination and was sent back to Earth. The next morning she woke at sunrise, feeling a deep sense of meaning and purpose. She tended to her children’s lunches and planned fun lessons for her students that day. The woman had discovered her ikigai.
So the literal translation is it’s composed of two Japanese words: iki referring to life, and kai, which roughly means the realisation of what one expects and hopes for.
So Google translate defines it as “salt of life.”
So the concept of ikigai is the Japanese meaning reason for being. Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. I think that’s why it’s so elusive for many people. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life. It is also referred to as “a reason to get up in the morning.”
So if you think about where you’re at right now in your life, do you think it’s possible you haven’t put enough time into having that deep and lengthy search of oneself? It is pretty hard to do when you’re being bombarded all around you by social media interruptions, by entertainment, by life just dragging on.
Certainly, I was in that zone where I had a job and I was just on a one-track mission to provide for my family, and I couldn’t say that I was doing a deep and lengthy search of one’s self back then.
“What is ikigai and how do you find it?”
How to find your ikigai
So how do we actually find it? Well, we have a look at the ikigai diagram, which is at the post here on SuperFastBusiness.com.
The ikigai lies in the center of the following interconnected circles: the big circles are “that which you love.” What’s your passion? What’s your mission? Another one is “that which you’re good at.” What’s your passion, what’s your profession? And then there’s “that which the world needs,” which is mission and vocation. And then “that which you can be paid for;” profession, vocation.
Now you might have heard something similar to this, which is by Jim Collins from Good to Great, called The Hedgehog Concept. That one was a slightly simpler version: what you can be the best in the world at, what drives your economic engine, and what are you deeply passionate about?
Now there’s a more business context to that. In particular, what you can be the best in the world at. That is a good filter because if you know that you cannot be the best in the world at something, it’s probably a good indication that your business will struggle.
Collins called it The Hedgehog Concept, and it’s really about doing one thing and doing it well. In his book Good to Great, he uses that parable about the fox and the hedgehog. The clever fox is always coming up with new ideas to eat the hedgehog, but the hedgehog just does one thing, and that is roll over into a thorny ball. So doing that one thing well is going to outsmart people who are too clever and too tricky, and trying to do too many things.
When I think about a lot of the people that I work with in business, it’s the most common thing, where people are trying to take on too much, far too much. It’s no wonder that they’re overwhelmed and confused when they come to me because they’re just not going to be as simple as that hedgehog, just rolling over and doing one thing. Almost always, I’m paring people’s business back to the simple core.
There’s another guy who talks about a similar concept and that’s Dan Sullivan. He talks about “Unique Ability,” and that’s focusing only on the things that you love and that you’re really good at. So you can see there’s overlapping things here. By now, you’re probably thinking that there’s a clear message. Do the things you love, do the things that you are really good at. Do the things that you can get paid for.
There’s another reference I’ve encountered. Hugh Macleod of Gapingvoid. He’s got the Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination book. It’s a great title, by the way. It explains why you might quit your stable job and go into your own mission that actually brings you joy. I think that’s really about ikigai.
Ikigai and Longevity
There’s also a side benefit to finding your purpose, and that is longevity.
According to Dan Buettner in his TED Talk, ikigai plays a big role in health and longevity. In America, life is divided into two parts: your working life and your retirement, which is where you’re hanging out in the easy chair and playing golf. In the northern part of Okinawa in Japan, the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world, live seven good years longer than the average American, five times as many centenarians, one-fifth the rate of breast and colon cancer, one-sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease.
He says ikigai and a good plant-based diet play a big role in this. His examples were: a karate master carrying forth his martial art, a fisherman getting fish for his family everyday, and a woman whose ikigai is getting to hold her great, great, great grandchild.
“The reason why the Japanese live longer”
Ikigai and Business
So let’s talk about ikigai and business. I’ll give you some examples of how I’ve been using ikigai. I really love sharing ideas and helping people. I don’t mind competing and innovating as well. What the world really needs is educators with real business experience. People who have been out there, and competitive markets who have run teams, who understand numbers, and are good with strategy.
So I’ve been able to find the things that I love and things that the world needs. It turns out that because the online space is very confusing and competitive for intermediate marketers, and especially as your business grows, the advanced phase can actually get even more complex. There are so many opportunities and choices and challenges that there really is a market where you can be paid to provide this sort of information.
So for me, problem solving has been a common theme throughout my career. It’s what I’ve been good at, it fits really well with the entrepreneurial idea of value creation. SuperFastBusiness.com, which is an online membership for Internet marketing business owners, actually allows me to provide help to other marketers and also to get rewarded for that. That’s why I love it, and that’s why I log in there everyday and have done it for about 7 or 8 years now So that actually helps me wake up in the morning, knowing that I can help others and that they can get amazing transformations.
“What wakes you up in the morning?”
Find your ikigai by answering these questions
If you are still not finding your own ikigai, there’s a few questions you might ask that helps you dislodge it. You can start by answering these questions:
What great results have you achieved in the past?
What “wins” have you had that you can put down as something you’re good at?
What do you feel really happy about in your life right now, like what makes you happy?
What are you so good at that others ask you for help? What sort of skills do you have?
What part of your business brings you joy? I’m sure there’s things that don’t, but what parts do bring you joy?
For me, I like answering forum posts and creating podcasts. That’s about my main job now. If you had to choose just one thing to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Now if you find that you’re miles and miles apart from where you would like to be and where you’re at right now, then why don’t you make this the year where you actually have more purpose, where you wake up in the morning excited about what you’re going to do today and not droning on in the old job. Come and join me inside the SuperFastBusiness membership forum, and we can see if we can bring it to life for you.
I’ve certainly been through the change myself. People thought that it was very strange when I quit my Mercedes-Benz general manager’s role, but I understood why I was doing it, and I’m so glad that I did. I’d like to help you go through that transformation if you need some help with that.
If you would like to help someone else find their life purpose, please forward a link to this podcast or blog post, and I’ll look forward to seeing if we can reach a few more people.
“If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, what would you do?”
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