If you search for the term ‘ikigai’ online, most search engines return hits featuring a diagram showing it as a balance between what you love, what you get paid for, what you’re good at, and what the world needs. But where does this diagram come from? Is it really related to what ikigai is within its original Japanese context?
In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick speaks with Andres Zuzunaga, who created the Purpose Venn Diagram that has become almost the definitive source of understanding about ikigai in the West. They will discuss the origins of this diagram and its relationship with the ikigai concept.
Cosmograma. At 2:01, Andres talks about Cosmograma, and his works about cosmology.
Somos Cosmos. At 5:33, Andres talks about his book, Somos Cosmos, and explains how astrology relates to psychology, science, society, and philosophy.
Purpose Venn Diagram. At 10:50, Nick and Andres discuss the Purpose Venn Diagram that Andres created.
Merging the concept with ikigai. At 17:48, Andres talks about how his diagram merged with the ikigai concept.
The first encounter with ikigai. At 25:20, Andres recalls the first time he saw his graph being associated with ikigai.
Importance of finding purpose. At 28:00, Andres shares why helping people find their purpose is important for him.
Andres’ advice. At 33:13, Andres gives advice on how people can find purpose in life.
Zuzunaga’s diagram. At 37:47, Andres explains why he doesn’t have a name for his diagram.
Andrés Zuzunaga Venn
Cosmograma is the title of Andres’ website and the name of his astrology school; it is named after a flat, geometric figure depicting cosmology. Andres shares that cosmology is a word that could be used to reinvent what they do as astrologers. When people hear the term ‘astrology’, the first thing that comes to mind is horoscopes, but Andres says there is much more to it -- it’s something very deep and profound.
Andres shares that astrology relates to psychology, science, society, and philosophy. He explains that because of all the chaos that is happening around the world, it’s more necessary for people to reflect on themselves and think about what they are born for. He believes that what’s important is not what happens outside, but what happens inside, to know one's real self, the reason for existence, and what a person can give to the world. His vision of astrology is not trying to control the outside world, but rather understanding which role each person takes part in the world.
The important thing is not what happens outside, but what happens inside. Who I am, what am I here for, and what can I give to the world? That's my vision about astrology. - Andres Zuzunaga
Nick agrees, saying, if people don’t have a purpose in their lives, it would be difficult for them to grow and find a deeper level of satisfaction.
Purpose Venn Diagram
Andres shares that the diagram is an idea that suddenly came to him; he thought of translating a natal chart (snapshot of the sky the moment people were born) to a diagram to simplify all the information collected in a natal chart and focus in particular on elements like what people love to do and what they are good at.
In 2012, Andres’ Purpose Venn Diagram was first published in a book by Borja Vilaseca called Que Harias Si No Tuvieras Miedo (What would you do if you weren’t afraid?). Borja is the founder of the Master’s in Personal Development and Leadership at the University of Barcelona; students are typically white-collar workers undergoing life crisis, and Borja invited Andres to read his students’ natal charts to help them find their purpose.
Merging the concept with ikigai
Andres made the diagram to share with his friends and community, not knowing that it would have a great impact on people; his diagram suddenly rose to fame because it was merged with the ikigai concept by Marc Winn. At first, Andres was frustrated because other people were using his diagram without giving him proper credit for it, but in the end, he just let it pass, thinking that it is nothing personal; ultimately, he felt that if he hadn’t constructed the diagram, somebody else would have, because there are times when the same idea can manifest to different people -- and at least Winn had understood the diagram and felt moved to share it.
First encounter with ikigai
Andres shares that he was able to watch a TED talk about ikigai, but admits to not having proper knowledge about it; he does have a book about ikigai but hasn’t yet read it. He says that his diagram could not be 100% related to ikigai because it wasn’t on his mind when he created the diagram, and he thinks that people like Nick, who has a great interest in the real meaning of ikigai, should share the concept with others because not too many people in the West know about ikigai..
Importance of finding purpose
When asked about why he thinks helping people find their purpose is important, Andres shares that it is related to his natal chart: he is a Leo who wants to shine. At first, he had no interest in becoming an astrologer; he studied economics in New York and worked as a programmer for ten years, but felt empty and lost. He went to an astrologer who told him that he could be an excellent astrologer, and that encounter led him to reach a deep understanding about himself that brought him great peace and acceptance. Subsequently, he decided to devote himself to psychological astrology.
Andres’ advice for people who want to find their purpose in life is to open their mind to the possibility that who they really are is connected with all the things that surround them; they can ask an astrologer to give them a psychological lecture or analysis of their natal chart because it gives people the map of their purpose and that helps them find their reason for being.
Open your mind and ask an astrologer to give you a psychological lecture or analysis of your natal chart. You will surely find purpose there. - Andres Zuzunaga
Andres shares that he didn’t have a name for his diagram, and is uncomfortable to take credit personally, he just put a star at the center that symbolizes purpose; it is what he thinks is important for people to find.
It is ironic that Andres Zuzunaga’s Purpose Venn Diagram has become the dominant visual symbol of ikigai in the West, since Zuzunaga was unfamiliar with ikigai when he created the image. Although Zuzunaga is an advocate of using astrology to help find one’s purpose, he is positive about related methods and concepts, such as ikigai, since he feels that an understanding of purpose is key to a fulfilling existence.