Applying Ikigai To Your Career

Strike the perfect balance.

By Sophie Whitfield

How many times in the morning have you hit the snooze button when your alarm goes off?

Surely, we are all guilty of it – right? But what is the reason?

Are you not passionate or motivated to do your current job?

Do you dread going to work every day?

Is your current job not what you thought it would be? 

Ikigai as a concept

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that simply translated to English means; having a direction or purpose in life and making life worthwhile – essentially the reason you get up in the morning and avoid hitting the snooze button!

Combined with a healthy lifestyle ikigai is seen as an important component to healthy ageing with advantages including enjoying your work, loving what you do and giving meaning to life.

The ikigai concept dates back to the Heian period, the Japanese period of 794 to 1185, with clinical psychologist Akihiro Hasegawa releasing a research paper into the concept in 2001.

Ikigai incorporates passion, mission, profession, and vocation strongly relating to what you love, what you are good at, what can be paid for and what the world needs.

ikigai gif

“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” – Steve Jobs

Applying Ikigai to your life

Ikigai is all about finding joy, fulfilment, and balance in your daily routine. It is easy to fall victim to the mentality that our job, family, passions, and desires are all separate things – but the ikigai concept demonstrates that everything is interconnected.

The idea of ikigai is different for everyone based on their specific beliefs, values, and life – meaning you decide what it is for you.

By pursuing ikigai it can bring more ease into your life. For happiness and contentment, your version of ikigai, in whatever form, should be linked to the work you do every day. 

“There is no passion to be playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

Below are some questions to ask yourself and maybe a starting point in applying ikigai to your own life and career.  

What do you love?

  • What are you passionate about? What is the thing you could talk and talk about for hours?
  • If money was no object, would you still be doing what you are doing now?
  • What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

What are you good at?

  • Has someone sought advice or opinions from you about something specific because they know you would be the best person to ask?
  • What is the thing everyone always talks about you being good at?
  • Can you further enhance your skills in a particular area through further education or experience

What can you be paid for?

  • Is there a product or service which people would pay for and is currently not on the market?
  • Are you being paid for what you currently are passionate about?

What does the world need?

  • Does the world need the skills and passion you have?
  • What will be needed 10 years from now? What about 100 years?
  • Is there a shortage in an area you are passionate about?
  • What problems need to be solved in the world?

Revitalising your career

Modern workplaces can often be repetitive and involve mundane activities. Phases like ‘daily grind’, ‘9-5’ and ‘pen-pusher’ frequent when people talk about their jobs.

Studies show that we work, on average, over 90,000 hours over a lifetime. Therefore, without passion, motivation, and fulfilment in our work, it starts to feel like a chore.

When it comes to revitalising career, start by setting goals in line with passion, motivation, and fulfilment – what gets you excited?

You may need to learn some new skills along the way when making a change to your career.

How can I make a change?

Do you find passion in your current job? If your answer is no, that’s okay. It is never too late to make a change – you can pivot! Honestly, one job might not give you the satisfaction you need. 

Living with purpose every day is the secret to a long and happy life. 

Patience is key in finding your ikigai and it may take weeks, years or even a decade. Taking the first steps in applying the ikigai concept to your own life, might just transform it!

If you need any help along the way, experts in whatever form – industry specialists, mentors or even resume writers, are all good starting points.


Happy hunting!