I have been seeing this concept do the rounds all around social media lately. Everyone is posing with their Ikigai book like they discovered the secret key to unlock happiness.
So I thought, I'd make a post deconstructing the book and the concept of Ikigai, and why it may not be as useful as it initially sounds.
Real meaning of Ikigai
Ikigai is a Japanese word which roughly translates to "purpose" or "reason for being".
It stems from iki, meaning to live and gai meaning reason.
That's it. That's the only meaning of the word. It means the reason why you live. It has got nothing to do with your passion, profession, vocation and other things that modern western authors like to tell you about.
Ikigai is not something that can be interpreted by a simple venn diagram.
Deconstructing the western idea of Ikigai
Too many people have gotten it wrong. They think that achieving this ikigai state is the way to find their passion, or the correct way to live life. That is far from the truth.
First things first, the whole concept of western ikigai is an intersection of too many circles. It's too layered and intricate to apply to the general population.
Hardly anyone can find things that they love to do, and that they are good at, and people need it, and they are willing to pay for it.
It's a good idea on paper. But it's too impractical to apply to one's life.
No one who is successful started out seeking Ikigai. According to the original Japanese definition, Ikigai is something that should happen, not something you should seek.
Putting the broad concept of Ikigai into a venn diagram limits it, let alone gives an incorrect picture to someone who is introduced to the concept via the diagram. Plus, the diagram isn't a useful tool anyway. So it's completely pointless to study the Ikigai book and try to optimize your life for it.
This book tries to put the original, great idea of Ikigai into a box so it can sell you a dream of "a long and happy life".
A long and happy life cannot be put into a venn diagram, and you should not try to make career choices based on arbitrary diagrams you find in a famous book.
The real pursuit of Ikigai
A more real and sensible way to pursue the true Ikigai would be to do meaningful things.
Stop doing things daily that won't amount to anything a few months and years later. Most of you do a lot of bullshit throughout the day(eg: endlessly scrolling Instagram) that do not contribute anything to your life. And this is why your lives are meaningless.
You don't need Ikigai, you need to get a life.
Pursue a more meaningful goal, something you may not initially "like" doing, but something that has a higher purpose. This can be starting a new fitness habit, or reading a book a month.
The secret to a long and happy life is not a Venn diagram, it is doing things that you might not like initially but end up improving your life drastically years later.
"The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant" _Dr. Jordan Peterson
Send this to someone who has posted the Ikigai book on their Instagram story.
PS: If you liked reading this, I recently wrote about the Japanese concept of Kintsugi. It will change the way you think about damage. Check it out.
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