Ikigai: Living a Fulfilled​ Life

The path to fulfillment and self-actualization is a long one. Whether you’re on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or on the path of enlightenment in pursuit of Nirvana, it is a path of constant conflict. In order to gain some clarity in this pursuit, you must ask yourself, “What is my purpose in life?”

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that loosely translates into “A reason for being.” What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? What gives you peace when you lay your head down at night?

I ask these questions to give you a mental picture. Imagine waking up every day so excited and enthused, and then going to sleep every night with joy and fulfillment. Not just one day, but all the days of your life.

I may be writing this piece mainly for me, but it’s because it’s a question I ask myself daily. What is my purpose, my destiny, and how do I know if I’m on the right track. Last week’s piece was about Synchronicity, subtle confirmations or coincidences that you’re in alignment.

This week is about Ikigai, knowing what path to take. If you’re not getting those confirmations, not feeling synchronized or aligned, it may be time to go away for some time and search for your Ikigai. I’ll get you started.

Ikigai tells us that there are four major areas of our life: what we love, what we’re good at, what the world needs, and what we can be paid for. The intersection of all four is harmony, fulfillment, Ikigai.

The hardest part may be maintaining a balance of all four. Even before that answering, those questions may even prove difficult.

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The very first and most important is to figure out what you love. When I talk to my mentees, I ask them what is one thing you can do for the rest of your life, without getting paid. If you love something, with that love, you can spend countless hours on it.

This brings us to what we’re good at. There’s a strong correlation with loving something and being good at it. Most great software engineers I know, love programming. My friends that play professional sports, love playing their sport. When you do what you love, and get really good at it, you develop a passion.

You can’t pay rent with love and passion though, getting paid is an extremely important piece. I used to love football and was relatively good at it, but when I realized I wasn’t going to make it professionally, I had to let it go. It was painful, but I would never have found my Ikigai if I held on to only two of the four areas.

Sidenote: I’m slowly developing a passion to profession pipeline to help people get through this phase.

Last but not least, what does the world need? Going back to software engineering as an example, there is a high demand in the world for this profession. This wasn’t always a thing. An old gentleman was telling me that about 10 years ago, you couldn’t land a job as an engineer.

Same thing with lawyers around the time the market crash in 2001-2008, they couldn’t find a job. Markets are brutal but patience is a virtue. You must know for a fact that there’s a demand for your love, skill and a salary with it today, or that the tide will change in the future.

All in all, I want everyone to feel fulfilled in what you do. Money isn’t everything and it’s not the biggest piece of this pie. Statistically, it’s only 25% of this diagram. I feel that because so many people focus on money, they don’t do what they love, what they’re good at, and don’t feel as if you’re contributing to the world and greater good.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:36

About the Author O.K. Arowolaju

Youth Minister, Product Manager

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