What is IKIGAI? Definition and Examples

What is IKIGAI? Definition and Examples

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means ‘reason for being’. It refers to having a direction or purpose in life that makes you feel fulfilled and gives you joy. The ikigai philosophy focuses on finding the intersection between what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs.

The Elements of Ikigai

According to the ikigai philosophy, true purpose in life comes from finding work that satisfies all of these elements:

  • What you love
  • What you’re good at
  • What you can get paid for
  • What the world needs

When these four elements overlap, you have found your ikigai. This is a balanced place where your work aligns with your passion and talent to meet a need in society or make the world a little bit better.

Examples of Ikigai

Here are some examples of people living their ikigai:

  • An artist who gets paid to create art that brings joy and meaning to people’s lives
  • A cook who has a talent for food preparation and opens a restaurant serving healthy, affordable meals in a low-income neighborhood
  • An environmental scientist whose research leads to new conservation policies that protect endangered species and habitats

As you can see, ikigai goes beyond just having a job. It reflects work that makes the most of your gifts, resonates with what you care about, and serves a purpose larger than yourself.

Finding Your Ikigai

Discovering your ikigai often requires self-reflection about your skills, values, and dreams. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I love and am passionate about?
  • What talents and strengths do I have?
  • What service or value could I provide to society?
  • What issues or problems call out to me?
  • If I could get paid for something, what would it be?

There may be some trial and error in aligning each element of ikigai. It may also change over time as your interests and capacities evolve. Have patience and keep taking small steps towards meaningful work.

Benefits of Finding Your Ikigai

Research shows that having a sense of purpose like ikigai can lead to many benefits, including:

  • Increased happiness
  • Lower stress levels
  • A sense of fulfillment
  • Life satisfaction
  • Potentially increased longevity

So while identifying your ikigai can be a lifelong process, it is a rewarding journey towards a joyful and meaningful life.


What are the 4 elements of ikigai?

The 4 elements of ikigai are: what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs. True ikigai is found in the overlap between these 4 areas.

Is ikigai really about passion or purpose?

Ikigai encompasses both passion and purpose. It includes what you’re passionate about as well as working towards a purpose greater than yourself that serves some need in the world.

Do I have to make money from my ikigai?

Getting paid for your work is one element of ikigai but not absolutely necessary. What’s most important is that your daily activities align with your other values around joy, meaning and using your talents.

Can your ikigai change?

Yes, ikigai can change over time as your passions and interests evolve. It’s generally not seen as one fixed thing you discover once but an evolving process of self-understanding and finding purpose.

Is ikigai the secret to long life?

Having an ikigai or purpose in life has been connected to better physical and mental health, including longevity. But ikigai is meaningful as an end itself, whether or not it extends your lifespan.