The Ikigai Concept

Rather than incorporating ikigai with entrepreneurship, people should know that ikigai is a feeling and not something that you achieve or seek.

Nick and Yoko Inoue discuss Kamiya Mieko's definition of ikigai: that ikigai is something that people can feel, and having a sense of ikigai provides people a clearer sense of attitude towards the future.

Nick: So on that, would you like to share how she defined ikigai in her book? 

Yoko: So it's important to introduce two separate things she wrote in the book, which is ikigai and ikigai-kan. Kan means feelings or a sense. So when you say my child is my ikigai, it shows the source of the target of ikigai.

That's how most of Japanese use the term ikigai nowadays, whereas when Kamiya mentioned ikigai-kan, with a state of mind when you feel ikigai, that's something that support your life as a whole, even when you can't find anything concrete that gives you immediate happiness. 

She says that this ikigai-kan is similar to the meaning of life by Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning. So in her book, On Ikigai, she actually discussed what ikigai-kan is.

Kamiya wrote that this sense of ikigai, compared to a sense of happiness, has a clearer sense of attitude towards the future. Also it is closer to the sense of oneself. 

It means if there are hopes and goals in the future, no matter what the current situation is, you can feel ikigai on the way to getting there. If you're pursuing something only you can do, then this sense of fulfilment becomes even stronger.

Nick: Yeah, it really is a fascinating concept, it's got all these elements -- it's multi dimensional. It's got this idea of your life moving forward, you have this idea of hope. It's something you feel, it's personal, it helps you understand yourself.

Even if you're struggling with life, if you do have this idea of a bright future, you can feel ikigai now, but also, as you just mentioned, if you have this feeling, there's something only that you can do, it also feels stronger.

So it's taken me a long time to understand this concept. But I think when I got a book, and I started reading Japanese, and I had my wife, and other people helped me read the book, I was like, "wow, this concept, it's amazing."

It really seems to touch on all these aspects of positive psychology: hope, finding a sense of purpose, making meaning of your life struggles. So I think she's definitely like the mother of positive psychology in a way.