Mental Models

Ikigai: Purpose in Action

I visited Japan after graduation and like Tim Urban (one of my favorite bloggers), I too failed to figure it out. Even though I stayed with a local friend in Japan for a few days and traveled alone, which forced me to interact with the local people, I found it very difficult to even begin to understand the Japanese culture. Nonetheless, I fell in love with the place (despite only being able to eat white rice on a vegetarian diet) and I came back and started reading some of their very thought-provoking philosophies. I’ll begin with Ikigai.

Ikigai is a concept to improve work and life. It’s about finding happiness in everyday life, such that the sum of small joys adds up to a more meaningful life. It is essentially the convergence of four primary elements:

  1. What you love (your passion)
  2. What the world needs (your mission)
  3. What you are good at (your vocation)
  4. What you can get paid for (your profession)


Of course not everyone has figured out what these four elements even mean for us (I’m still on the journey), but it’s a great lens and framework to use. It’s about “Purpose in Action.” Find your purpose. Take action.

If you have discovered your Ikigai or are still exploring like me, I would love to hear your stories – drop me a note! Till then, enjoy these pictures of my friends and me at a teenage photo studio in Tokyo!


Recommended article:

More to come on Ikigai once I’ve read the book: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia


2 thoughts on “Ikigai: Purpose in Action”

  1. I was also fortunate enough to visit Japan recently and come across the notion of Ikigai. I have to imagine only precious few find it! Certainly most find their profession early in life and that goes hand in hand with vocation – but your top circle, love, has to be the most elusive. I actually do wonder if it’s even possible for everyone to find a sense of passion overlapping with mission, vocation, and profession. But shouldn’t stop us trying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that it’s hard to find your own Ikigai and yes, people have different passions and could also have more than one mission, which could make the search elusive. But, it takes grit to keep the search going and not give up. There are many people who discover their passion (Ikigai) after 20-25 years of work experience as well. So you’re right, never stop trying!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s