10 lessons from ikigai that transformed my learning mindset

July 4, 2024
minutes to read
Jelina Rosin
Table of Contents

Years ago, I was a corporate girl stuck in a repetitive routine. Every day was the same: endless meetings where we discussed business strategies that never seemed to go anywhere, stressful deadlines that loomed over me like storm clouds, and the harsh glare of office lights that seemed to sap my energy.

The stress wasn't just part of the job; it was a constant companion, a weight on my shoulders that I couldn't shake off. I churned out reports, presentations, and emails, but deep down, I felt empty.

It wasn't just the typical burnout that many professionals experience; it was a deeper feeling of unhappiness, a constant questioning of "What's the point?" I was there to do my job, climb the corporate ladder, and achieve the traditional markers of success.

But where was the passion? The creativity?

The spark that excited me to get out of bed in the morning? Was this all there was to life - a never-ending cycle of tasks and meetings that felt meaningless? These questions gnawed at me, filling me with a quiet desperation.

One day, while venting to my bookworm friend about my woes, she casually mentioned a book that had changed her life: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Intrigued by her description of this Japanese concept, I decided to give it a read. Little did I know it would catalyse a profound shift in my approach to learning and my career.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai (pronounced "ee-kee-guy") is a beautiful Japanese concept that doesn't have a direct English translation. It can be thought of as your "reason for being" or your "life's purpose." It's what gets you out of bed in the morning, what makes you feel alive and fulfilled.

The word itself comes from two Japanese words:

  • Iki: meaning "life" or "alive."
  • Gai: meaning "value" or "worth."

Together, they represent the idea of a life worth living, a life filled with purpose and joy. It's about finding the sweet spot where your passions, skills, values, and what the world needs to intersect.

The origins of Ikigai

Ikigai is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and history, particularly in Okinawa, an island known for its many centenarians. These long-lived individuals often attribute their longevity and happiness to having a strong sense of ikigai.

The concept gained global recognition through the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, written by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles. García, a Spanish writer, and Miralles, a Catalan author, were fascinated by the Okinawans' approach to life and sought to understand the secrets behind their longevity and well-being.

Their research led them to explore the concept of ikigai, and they spent years interviewing centenarians in Okinawa to uncover the key elements that contribute to a meaningful and fulfilling life. Their book became an international bestseller, introducing ikigai to a global audience and sparking a renewed interest in this ancient philosophy.

The Ikigai Venn Diagram

To visualise ikigai, many people use a Venn diagram with four overlapping circles representing:

Ikigai venn diagram
  1. What you love (your passion): Activities or interests that bring you joy and excitement.
  2. What you are good at (your vocation): Skills and talents you possess.
  3. What the world needs (your mission): Ways you can contribute to society or make a difference.
  4. What you can be paid for (your profession): Work or activities providing financial security.

Ikigai is at the center of these four circles, where your passions, skills, values, and economic needs intersect. Ikigai can spark new ideas and solutions as you combine your unique skills and passions to meet a real need in the market. Not only that, a clear sense of purpose can guide your business decisions, helping you stay focused on what truly matters.

10 Lessons from the Ikigai book

Here are 10 things I learned from Ikigai that made me love learning again and changed my job:

Rediscover your passion.

"Many people never connect with their ikigai but go to their graves with their music still inside them."

After years of corporate drudgery, I realised I had neglected my creative side. I had always loved writing and storytelling, but it had been buried under a mountain of spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. I decided to start a blog, sharing my experiences and insights about life in the corporate world. This small act of rebellion reignited my passion for writing and gave me a creative outlet that I desperately needed.

Embrace lifelong learning.

"Once you discover your ikigai, pursuing it and nurturing it daily will bring meaning to your life."

I signed up for online courses in digital marketing and social media strategy. Not only did this make me a more valuable employee, but it also gave me a sense of personal growth and development. I realised that learning wasn't just about getting ahead in my career; it was about expanding my horizons and becoming a more well-rounded individual.

Find your flow.

"The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow."

In the corporate world, it's easy to get bogged down in busy work and lose sight of the bigger picture. I found my flow by taking on challenging projects that allowed me to utilise my creativity and problem-solving skills. I also started blocking off time in my calendar for deep work, where I could focus without distractions and fully immerse myself in my tasks.

Connect with others.

"The strength of the bonds you create with the people who share your passions and interests will surprise you."

I joined professional networking groups and started attending industry conferences. I was amassed by the sense of community I found among other like-minded professionals. Sharing ideas and insights with them not only expanded my knowledge base but also provided a much-needed support system.

Celebrate small wins.

"Our ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search."

In the corporate world, it's easy to feel like you're constantly chasing the next promotion or raise. But Ikigai taught me to appreciate the small victories along the way. Whether it was completing a project, receiving positive feedback from a client, or simply learning a new skill, I made a conscious effort to celebrate these small wins and acknowledge my progress.

Reframe failure.

"Life is not a problem to be solved. It is a reality to be experienced."

In my corporate career, I had always been terrified of failure. But Ikigai helped me see that failures are simply part of learning. Instead of dwelling on mistakes, I started analysing them objectively, extracting valuable lessons, and using those experiences to improve my performance.

Nurture curiosity

"To stay young, you must keep learning."

I began asking more questions, seeking out new information, and challenging myself to think outside the box. This renewed sense of curiosity made my work more interesting and opened up new avenues for personal and professional growth.

Apply your knowledge.

"When we focus on what we can do and even specialise in one area, our chances of finding our ikigai increase."

I started volunteering my skills to help non-profit organisations with their marketing efforts. This not only allowed me to give back to the community but also allowed me to apply my knowledge in a new and meaningful way.

Share your expertise.

"To find our ikigai, we need to strike a balance between our passions and our talents."

I began mentoring junior colleagues, sharing my knowledge and experience to help them navigate the corporate landscape. This helped them develop their skills, reinforced my expertise, and gave me a sense of purpose.

Never stop growing.

"Our ikigai is in constant evolution because who we are also changes with time."

I realised that my career goals and aspirations weren't static; they evolved as I learned and grew. I embraced this change and started actively seeking out new challenges and opportunities that aligned with my evolving ikigai.

Let ikigai ignite your entrepreneurial spirit

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Thriday customer

The principles of ikigai aren't just a recipe for personal fulfilment; they're a blueprint for entrepreneurial success. Whether you're a consultant who wants to find deeper meaning in your client work, a freelancer looking to build a sustainable business around your passion, or an aspiring startup founder with a world-changing idea, ikigai can be your guiding light.

Find a way to meet a need in the world gives your business purpose and meaning. It's the reason your business exists and the value it brings to customers and society.

When you combine these three elements – passion, skills, and a mission – you create a business that is not only profitable but also deeply fulfilling. You're not just building a company; you're building a legacy, a testament to your unique talents and your commitment to making a difference in the world.

So, I challenge you to ask yourself:

  • What is my ikigai? What am I truly passionate about? What are my unique skills and talents? How can I use them to make a positive impact on the world?
  • Am I living my ikigai? Is my current work or business aligned with my passions, skills, and values? If not, what changes can I make to bring them into alignment?
  • How can I use ikigai to fuel my entrepreneurial journey? Can I leverage my ikigai to create a business that is both profitable and fulfilling? How can I build a team and a culture that embodies the principles of ikigai?

These are not easy questions to answer, but they are essential for anyone who wants to create a business that is truly their own

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