Discover Your Ikigai!

This month, our director, Marina, was lucky enough to take a trip to Japan with her family from Mexico (a bit of a clash of cultures perhaps!). So for this month’s article we’re taking you on a trip to Okinawa! This Japanese island is one of the “blue zones”, those regions where people live the longest and healthiest lives. For the inhabitants of this island, this could be partly explained by the Ikigai, a philosophy of life, which dates back to the 14th century.

Image of a woman in front of a cherry blossom tree

Ikigai (which comes from ikiru (to live) and kai (the realisation of what we hope for, what we long for)), is a method that allows us to focus and determine our goals. In other words, the Ikigai will help you identify why you get up every morning!

According to the habits, living in harmony with your purpose will allow you to live in peace and fulfilment. And this harmony would be largely responsible for your good health.

Ikigai is about realising which activity best suits what you are living, who you are and what makes you feel happy! We often tend to be too modest: it is an attitude that is valued but not necessarily useful: we must know what we are made for, understand our calling …. and go for it!

At its simplest, Ikigai can be thought of as the convergence of four fundamental components:

  1. Passion (What you love): This refers to the activities that ignite your soul, the things that you enjoy doing so much that you lose track of time while doing them.
  2. Vocation (What you’re good at): Vocation relates to your talents, skills, and expertise. It’s about recognizing what you excel at and what comes naturally to you.
  3. Mission (What the world needs): Mission revolves around identifying the needs of the world around you. It’s about discovering how you can contribute meaningfully, how you can make a positive impact on others’ lives or society as a whole.
  4. Profession (What you can be paid for): This aspect involves finding a way to monetize your passions and talents. It’s about aligning your purpose with practicality, ensuring that you can sustain yourself while pursuing your Ikigai.

The Interplay of Ikigai:

The beauty of Ikigai lies in the interplay between these four elements. When you discover your Ikigai, you find yourself at the intersection of these components, where your passion meets your vocation, your mission aligns with what the world needs, and your profession sustains your livelihood. It’s the sweet spot where fulfilment blossoms, where every moment feels purposeful and every action feels meaningful.

Practical Steps to Uncover Your Ikigai:

  1. Self-Reflection: Take the time to introspect and delve deep into your inner desires, strengths, and values. Ask yourself what brings you joy, what you’re good at, what you care about, and how you can contribute to the world.
  2. Explore Your Passions: Engage in activities that ignite your passion and bring you joy. Whether it’s painting, writing, teaching, or cooking, pay attention to the activities that make you feel alive.
  3. Identify Your Strengths: Recognize your unique talents and skills. What do you excel at? What sets you apart from others? Embrace your strengths and leverage them in your pursuit of Ikigai.
  4. Find Meaningful Work: Look for opportunities that allow you to align your passion and talents with making a positive impact. Whether it’s through your career, volunteering, or creative endeavours, seek out avenues where you can contribute meaningfully.
  5. Embrace Growth: Embrace the journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Your Ikigai may evolve over time, and that’s perfectly okay. Stay open to new experiences, challenges, and opportunities for learning and development.

Living a Life of Ikigai:

Living a life of Ikigai is not about achieving a state of perpetual bliss or escaping from life’s challenges. Instead, it’s about finding purpose and fulfilment amidst the ups and downs of life. It’s about embracing the journey, finding joy in the mundane, and making a difference, however small, in the world around you.


Inova runs regular personal and professional development and well being programmes. Our trained facilitators use positive psychology and coaching tools to help you grow and fulfil your potential. Find out more on our Events Page.

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by Carolyn Usher

International Project Manager & Trainer/Coach

Carolyn joined Inova in 2011 and is a Project Manager, trainer and coach. She is passionate about development and supporting people to achieve their dreams. Carolyn has a PGCert in Coaching and Mentoring from Sheffield Hallam University, BA in Communication and Cultural Studies and a MA in Cultural Policy and Management.

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