Whether you're just beginning your career with no clue what you want to do or halfway through it and slipping into a midlife crisis, no one likes the feeling of uncertainty. Not knowing where your career is headed can be a scary feeling, and not in a fun, roller-coaster way — it’s usually more of a thrum of ongoing anxiety that can easily become panic.
But there’s no need to panic. If you’ve been struggling with figuring out where you belong in the corporate (or small business, or entrepreneurial) world, you’re definitely not alone. And while it’s normal to waver from here to there over the course of our careers, it’s nice to feel a sense of certainty.
Fortunately, a new lifestyle trend in Japan influenced by traditional Okinawan culture promises to find your life’s purpose.
Ikigai, pronounced [Ick-ee-guy], means “reason for being.” It’s your reason for jumping out of bed in the morning, motivating you to revel in and appreciate life every day by doing what you love and bringing joy to others.
Ask Yourself 4 Questions to Find Your Ikigai
According to the Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai and is able to find it by asking themselves four core questions:
What do I love?
What am I good at?
What can I be paid for?
What does the world need?
When I answered these, I expected to feel an “aha!” moment at the end. I didn’t. Ikigai is not a quick-fix or immediate solution to awindy or unstable career path. It is meant to be practiced, meaning you should be trying to fulfill your ikigai every single day. The answer will come later and full circle, probably when you least expect it.
I will tell you how I answered the four questions, though:
I love when my writing helps people realize things they wouldn’t have realized on their own. I love writing to evoke emotion.
I’m good at being empathetic, listening to people’s stories and struggles while remaining neutral and open-minded.
I can be paid to write in a variety of ways (website articles, magazine features, eBooks, novels).
The world needs truth and relatability, especially on subjects that aren’t represented in the media.
The whole idea behind ikigai is finding out what makes you happy and keeps you motivated, but it goes deeper than that. In essence, ikigai is a practical approach to figuring out that nagging question at the back of our minds — “What should I do with my life?” — once and for all.
The Five Pillars That Enhance Your Ikigai
In addition to answering those four questions about ourselves, there is another layer to the ikigai concept: Apparently, it is much easier to feel ikigai when we create social connections. This explanation is perhaps due to the ingrained social connections that Japanese society promotes and is conditioned to seek.
Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, advises us to focus on what he labels the “five pillars,” which are: (1) starting small, (2) accepting yourself, (3) connecting with the world around you, (4) seeking out small joys, and (5) being in the here and now.
For optimal effects of the “five pillar” method, Mogi suggests incorporating this mindset in the first couple of hours after you wake up to start your day on the right foot and get your brain accustomed to this way of thinking.
Time To Find Your Ikigai
Keeping the five pillars in mind, take 10 minutes to ask yourself those four core questions. Be honest in your answers and see what you come up with.
We cannot expect to find our ikigai overnight or even over a couple of weeks, months, or years. Ikigai means an understanding of our own, unique life mission, and most people don’t realize that immediately. However, the more determined you are to find your ikigai, the more quickly you can do so.
In the meantime, if you need inspiration, try browsing some of the job opportunities on InHerSight. You can get matched with companies and positions that fit your interests and priorities, which might help spark an idea or provide you with new opportunities if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut.
Cheers to being well on your way to conquering your goals, your work and your life through a purpose-driven approach. Happy ikigai-ing!
By Ashley Alt
Ashley is a creative writer specializing on topics all self-driven women can relate to. She is known for her fashion forward sense of style, obsession with healthy snacking and honest life advice. Her dream of living in NYC will become a reality when her toddler goes to college. Her past work can be found at https://www.ashleyalt.com/ .