Ikigai and What It Is Not

How do we define ikigai?

For Dr. Dean Fido, he understood ikigai by learning what it is not. There is this misconception that ikigai is something related to work or entrepreneurship. This is why the best way to define ikigai is by clearing out what it is not -- not so much a goal to attain, but more on the simple things in our life that give us happiness.

Nick: It's comforting to know there is someone like Yasuhiro and yourself, putting some real, verifiable study into this because, as we know, ikigai is a greatly misunderstood concept that people sort of relate to entrepreneurship or finding your dream job, or purpose, and it certainly does relate to purpose, but it goes far deeper than that.

So how would you define ikigai?

Dean: I think it sounds a very simple question, but I think, in our research, that was the first sort of stumbling block which we hit because when Yasu brought the term to me, I actually asked him how he would define it.

Because he's obviously Japanese and English speaking, and he even had to take a step back almost, to kind of consider how he was going to portray that information to me.

The first thing that he said to me was, it's almost your purpose in life, or your reason for living, and then he started to elaborate more on what it wasn't rather than what it was, which for me, was a really interesting way of trying to talk about something.

Which perhaps in the UK, we've never spoken about before, it's not something that we attain, which obviously, commonly comes up. It's really interesting that you mentioned entrepreneurship, because that's one of the examples that he used in terms of actually what it's not.

I think that's quite a misdemeanour which people fall into.

Nick: Yeah, there's this idea: it's doing something you love, that you're good at, that the world needs, and that you can be paid for. 

Recently, I have seen a few people change that to what you can be rewarded for, because every Japanese I've met and I've shown that diagram to they've said "Oh, no, ikigai is not about money. It's not about making money." That's probably an interesting way to approach it. 

Maybe say, look here it is hard to translate or define but we can start by saying what it's not. I learned that it's more about daily living and it's not so much a goal to attain, and it can be more than one thing.  

There's also this idea, it's moving towards the future -- feeling that your life is moving towards a better future as well.