Roles and Relationships as your Sources of Ikigai

What matters most to you – or, to rephrase the question slightly, who matters most to you? 

While our work, hobbies, goals and personal dreams can be life-affirming sources of ikigai, it may be the people in your life who matter most to you – family, friends, colleagues, mentors – that are your strongest source of ikigai. As a result, it is these relationships that may cause you to experience ikigai-kan most intensely.

‘Young people often say that they have nothing to live for. But that is natural. Isolated people have no reason to live. What makes life worth living is human relationships. Human beings were not created to live alone. Buried in the mire of human relationships, the warmth of human skin gives us a reason to live.’ - Tatsuzō Ishikawa

Written well before the age of social media, author Tatsuzō Ishikawa’s 1971 quote couldn’t be more relevant for today. People tend to think that they are complete with their ‘self,’ but they are complete only when they are in relationships with other people. He believed that indirect relationships that we seek to pursue in isolation cannot fulfil us; ikigai can only come from something much more personal. 


Relationships and connections with others can make you feel that life is worth living by generating feelings of intimacy – not necessarily physical intimacy (though that is possible), but other types such as emotional, intellectual, experiential, creative, and spiritual.

These can lead to intense feelings of ikigai-kan because they make you feel alive, cause you to lose yourselves in a moment of connection, and provide you with life satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and a desire to keep making the most of life. 

With our relationships come our roles, the parts we play as members of various social groups. Our roles are the hats we consciously or unconsciously put on to adapt our behaviours to meet the expectations and needs of others.


Our roles give us the opportunity to express our values, feel a sense of purpose, and improve ourselves. Everyone is part of multiple social groups, and in each of those contexts we may have a distinct, unique role. It is vital to identify and enact these roles because they keep us connected to other people and underpin our sense of worth and sense of self.

Are You Looking For Ikigai?

According to venture capitalist Yohei Nakajima, the secret trick to finding your ikigai is to find your role within a community, your community.

In order to find your ikigai, you must identify your role within your community. This means to find and actively pursue what you enjoy providing for your community. This is why finding your ikigai can be considered both the most honourable and rewarding thing you can do.

I agree with Nakajima’s perspective. When we have roles in which we actively pursue what we enjoy providing for others, it is the most honourable and rewarding thing we can do. This allows us to manifest the truest version of ourselves and feel a strong sense of fulfilment. We experience ikigai-kan at an intimate level as we understand our significance.


When we have various roles that we pursue and enjoy we experience rolefulness -  a continuous sense of role satisfaction.

Rolefulness involves redefining your roles and embracing new ones. There are two aspects to it -, “social rolefulness” and “internal rolefulness.”

Social rolefulness is a sense of role satisfaction based on social experiences and relationships you have with others, while internal rolefulness is the internalised feeling of role satisfaction. This internalised feeling becomes/is the foundation of your individuality and our confidence.

This is why your roles and relationships can be sources of ikigai.