Beware of the ikigai trap!

You have most likely seen it: the Venn diagram that asks if you are doing something you love, something you are good at, something the world needs, and something you can be paid to do. If you meet all these conditions, you have found or achieved your ikigai.

But is this really true?

The Ikigai Trap

The Venn diagram is not Japanese in origin. It is an iteration of the Purpose Venn Diagram. While it is inspiring and can be helpful, if you take it as requirements or conditions to experience ikigai, then it is a trap. A meaningful and fulfilling life is not restricted to the confines of the sweet spot of this or any other Venn diagram or framework.

Ikigai is often not about what you love

Ikigai can be something you love or are passionate about, but you'll feel ikigai most intensely when you overcome a meaningful challenge or pursue something worthwhile that presents you with hardship. And if ikigai is about love, then perhaps it is more about who you love rather than what. So, rather than what, who is your ikigai? Who makes your life worth living?

Ikigai is not about what you're good at

You don’t have to be good at something to find or feel ikigai. Ikigai sources are often the areas in your life where you want to experience growth. Ikigai sources often include the things you want to learn about or learn to do - things you wouldn't be good at, but areas in your life where you want to satisfy your curiosity.

Ikigai is not what the world needs from you

Ikigai is not about what the world needs from you. Ikigai is what you need and often lies in the realm of community, family, friendships and in the roles you fulfil. When you pursue your ikigai, you are not out to save the world. Ikigai is more about connecting with and helping the people who give meaning to your life - your family, friends, co-workers and community.

Ikigai can also be a coping mechanism, something that helps you get through the day, from positive practices such as exercises, a daily walk, your morning cup of coffee to vices such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Ikigai is most definitely not about receiving money

Ikigai is not something you need to be paid to do. In fact, the opposite is more accurate. An ikigai source would be something you would pay to do, such as travelling, going to a concert, learning a hobby, donating money to a cause you believe in, and so on.

If you need to be paid to find or feel a sense of purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in life, then you could be stuck in the capitalist trap where workaholism, materialism, debt, health neglect, and relationship breakdown could become the realities of your life.

As ikigai is subjective and personal, the ikigai sources we can identify in life will be unique to each of us, but what we can be certain about is that ikigai is relatable to intrinsic motivation - doing things or engaging in experiences that are inherently rewarding. And that can be a spectrum of many things, big or small, rather than a sweet spot.

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