Ikigai: What it is and what it is not?

In the West, people have mistaken ikigai as a pursuit of something big or lofty goal; some even incorporate it with entrepreneurship and money. Nonetheless, ikigai is really about intrinsic motivation and has nothing to do with these external factors; it is more about having satisfaction even from the simplest things in life.

To better understand what ikigai is, Nick Kemp explains what it is and what it is not.

So what is ikigai? Well I’ll tell you what it’s not or what it doesn’t have to be. So ikigai doesn’t have to be something you’re good at; ikigai can be a pursuit of a new hobby or it can be something you enjoy that you’re simply not good at.

A few good examples might be singing or dancing. Another point is ikigai isn’t really about what the world needs; it’s more related to your personal community. So that would be your family, friends, and the people you serve. 

But it’s closer to home, it’s not out there in the world. It’s not something that the world needs. And ikigai doesn’t have to be something that you love. In fact, Kamiya Mieko who I like to think of as the “mother of ikigai” and a pioneering researcher on the concept, said that we feel ikigai most intensely when we overcome some life challenges or obstacles.

That’s probably because when we do overcome a challenge, we experience growth and experience some sort of self discovery. So we feel ikigai most intensely when we overcome a life challenge. 

Finally, and most crucially, ikigai is not something driven by money. It’s not something you’re paid to do. Now, this is really important, and this is something Japanese people will make a point of: ikigai is not about making money.

In short, ikigai is more about intrinsic motivation and is not driven by external factors. So ikigai is something you don’t have to be good at; it’s not something about the world and serving the world; it’s not something you have to love; and it’s definitely something driven by money.

If you like to understand ikigai more intimately and if you like to coach the concept in a manner that is respectful and authentic to Japanese culture, please reach out to me.