Ikigai – Second Thoughts


Much of the English literature about Ikigai contains some version of the following Venn diagram:



One problem with this is that not everyone needs to “be paid”. A significant number of people either have money or have someone who will provide them with money. It all feels too Western and not nearly what I would expect of a Japanese approach.

Then I dipped into Awakening Your Ikigai (excerpt). It leads off with the 5 Pillars of Ikigai:


Clearly something has been lost in the translation. The “real” Ikigai focuses on small steps that could be taken by almost anyone. The Western Ikigai is about big, bold steps that someone in business could be expected to take.

All of which led to this alternative Venn diagram:



This to my mind comes closer to the Japanese version of Ikigai. It may be a bit too grandiose and “large” in approach, but seems to come closer to the real Ikigai. My explanation:

1. Engaging [Internal] – What you do should be something with which you can engage. If you’re bored, frustrated or irritated by doing something, it should not be part of your Ikigai.

2. Competent [Internal] – Being competent to execute your Ikigai steps is important. You don’t need to be world-class, but you should be competent.

3. Needed [External] – If it’s a part of your Ikigai, its impact should not be negative. You may not always be able to do good, but you should avoid doing harm.

4. Valued [External] – It’s important to many of us to win some recognition for the good we do. The key is not financial reward but human social recognition.

Bob Fabian
2021 May 30