What is your Ikigai and how can it Improve your Career?


According to the management consulting company, Gallup, it’s estimated that only 15% of the world’s full-time population is enthusiastic about their jobs. Considering we spend so much of our time at work, it’s rather concerning that 85% of professionals worldwide don’t enjoy their jobs and dread getting out of bed on Monday mornings. If you’re part of the ‘unhappy’ group who dread getting out of bed in the mornings to go to work, you need to ask yourself “what will motivate you?” More importantly, you need to ask the question, “What is your Ikigai”?

What is Ikigai

Ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is a popular Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”.  In other words, Ikigai is what will make you want to jump out of bed every morning instead of having to. It is a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical. This balance is found between where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.

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Discovering your Ikigai

Money alone won’t lead to fulfilment in life. Yes, being financially independent can make things easier but it won’t have an impact on what you’re passionate about. Ikigai is the convergence of four elements which includes what you love (your passion), what the world needs (your mission), what you’re good at (your vocation) and what you can get paid for (your profession). The secret to a long and happy career (and life) is not to live in the hope of greatness tomorrow but to live with intention today.

Based on these four elements, there are several questions you need to ask about your current job. These questions are:

What you Love:

  1. Are you truly passionate about your profession? Can you talk about your job and industry enthusiastically?
  2. Are you emotionally connected to the success of your work?
  3. If money wasn’t a factor, would you still do the job that you’re doing?

What the World Needs:

  1. Does your job make a difference in the world?
  2. Is there a demand for your job and what you do?
  3. Will your job still be needed 10 years from today? Will the value of your work increase or diminish over time?

What you can be Paid for:

  1. Are you being paid for what you do?
  2. If you’re being paid, is it a decent/market-related salary for the type of job you do?
  3. Is there a healthy amount of competition in your industry and profession?

What are you Good at:

  1. Are you good at what you do?
  2. Are you among the best at what you do in your company, industry or community?
  3. With additional education, training and experience would you excel in or master what you do?

The answer to these questions should be a simple YES or NO. If you answer YES to all three questions within a group, then keep on doing what you’re doing. Spend time trying to identify how you can make all the answers YES in the other groups. If you can’t then a job change or even a career change should be considered to ensure that you can say YES to all these questions. Once you’re able to answer YES to all 12 questions, you’ve discovered your reason for being – your Ikigai!

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Benefits of knowing ‘your Ikigai’:

It’s unlikely that any job is absolutely perfect but it’s important that you enjoy what you do. You spend a lot of time at work (on average 30-35% of your waking hours) so if you hate it, it could affect your health, wealth and happiness. Work stress and burnouts are very common but they can be prevented if you can discover your Ikigai! It might take time – months or even years – to discover what your true reason for being is. However, if you can discover what motivates you at work, it will be easier to identify the type of job that will transform your life positively.

Discovering your own Ikigai is said to help bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer. It’s no coincidence then that the Japanese island of Okinawa, where Ikigai has its origin, happens to be the home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfilment and balance in life. Your job, family, passions and desires should never operate in silos. If you understand and know what your Ikigai is, you will then realise that everything in your life is connected.


If you want to learn more about your Ikigai then register for our 17th annual Professional Administrators and Secretaries Conference South Africa (PACSA) taking place at Sun City on 31 July – 2 August 2019. This topic will be included along with many other amazing ones at South Africa’s premier secretaries and administrators event.


PACSA 2019

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