There’s More to Discover About Ikigai

Jennifer Shinkai was first introduced to the concept of ikigai while she was going through some changes in her life. Wanting to enhance her knowledge on the topic, she gathered insights from different people which helped deepen her understanding of the concept.

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Ikigai is a broad concept

Nick: Ikigai means different things to different people. And we kind of know most Japanese don't really talk about it, and they certainly don't use a Venn diagram. And it sounds like from your Google Trends search, the most popular term being no ikigai or lack of ikigai. It's really interesting how it's become this buzzword and misunderstood.

But that's often the case, many words get misunderstood outside of Japan, wabi-sabi and Kintsugi. The list could go on and on. But what happened to you when you first stumbled upon the word?

Because I do have a really vivid memory of when I was introduced to it. And it was, again, in a very, really casual conversation, but what about yourself? When were you introduced to the word?

Jennifer: I think it was after I had my career change, and I remember thinking, because I was introduced to it through the Venn diagram, actually. So that must have been like, six, seven. I was like, Whoa, I wish I'd had this tool when I was planning my career change.

And then with being exposed to different ideas, like listening to your podcast, as I mentioned, at the beginning, I really was like, oh, there's quite a lot more to this topic. That sort of deepened my interest. And I was approached to write a book, and I wrote a proposal.

And then the agent said, this is great, but it's like only your experience of what you think ikigai is, so you need to get some other voices. And that's when the podcast started, I was like, I need to interview people about what they think it means, how they've used this concept, different types of ways of integrating the concept of ikigai.

Because I was quite frustrated that in a lot of literature, in English anyway, it was like, I have to be 100 years old living in an island paradise, or I have to be some artists and mastering some craft, like the examples which are available to me. 

But you know, at the time, I was like a 30 something with a mortgage, an office job and two kids, I don't seem to be like, hitting any of those examples of living with ikigai. So is it an option for me? And is it something which I can only achieve if I live in Japan? Like you know, this is something which is geographically bound.

So that's where I went. Oh, and there were also these stories of like, oh, you have to like work for an MPO. Because it was a lot like something the world needs, it was kind of like this good works in the world vibe, as well as like the payment piece that kind of came through.

And so just hearing different ways that people interpret it has really deepened and expanded. And I think that for me,  I'm loving more about the concept of ikigai. Now I'm learning more about it, and how expansive it is.

And it can be those small things. It can be those moments, it can be looking forward to something. It can be looking through old photos -- just anything. So right now, as I say this, I'm getting goosebumps. So for me, that's like ikigai, because my body is having a physical response to the emotions of what I'm saying. And I can feel that my body is alive.

Nick: Yeah, you feel it. That was sort of the key learning, something you feel, not achieve or chase. And so it really opens that door to how it's very subjective and personal. And it can even be private, that's something Ken Mogi said to me, it can be something private, and might be something that a Japanese person won't discuss, they'll keep it to themselves.

But we know Japanese really don't discuss the word, it's something they feel. And unfortunately, it's something many Japanese also don't feel.