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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ikigai: how to find your life purpose

The search for happiness is something very particular from each person and can be directly related to their established life purpose, something that involves what we call Ikigai.

Yes, this little known word is fundamental in the process of search for a purpose of life and in our eternal search for happiness. After all, feeling personally and professionally accomplished motivates us, gives us an optimistic view about life and captives others around us.

Have you ever reflected about your life purpose? Besides, do you know how to define what this purpose is? We will help you!

Gino Terentim is a professor of the MBA USP/Esalq and specialist in the subject. In this article, the professor defines Ikigai, its origins and more! It is worth reading!

Ikigai, its origin and meaning

Terentim starts with the origin and definition of the term.

Ikigai – in the translation, something like a ‘reason to live’ – is a philosophy of life with origin in the island of Okinawa, in southern Japan. This island is well known for the high estimate of life of its inhabitants – above 100 years – due to the high level of purpose and an index of happiness above average.”

The professor also explains the differences of the meaning of the term in western and eastern regions.

“We, here in the West, usually define ‘reason for something’ as an objective, a point in time, or even a milestone in the future. For example, we think about the reason of a strategic planning or the reason for working in a given company. We have this custom of defining reason as a point of arrival.”

On the other hand, in oriental culture, the great meaning is not in the arrival, but in the journey – what goes head to head with Ikigai. Terentim explains:

“In the orient, when we talk about reason to live, we do not talk about a point in the future, but of each point built throughout the journey, in every moment we live. It is a reason, a reason to get up from bed every day and seek Ikigai itself, although it is utopian and you don’t find it. The reason for living is in the search and not in the arrival.”

Ikigai and personal and professional life

Terentim explains Ikigai and its division into four great domains of our lives. They are:

  • Doing something that you love.
  • Doing something with proficiency.
  • Doing something that the world needs – in the case, the “world” can be a community or person.
  • Doing something that is paid.

The professor also points out that it is in the center of the four domains that the balance of Ikigai resides, and not in its intersections.

These intersections are:

  • Passion: what you love to do and what you do well;
  • Profession: what you do well and is paid;
  • Vocation: what is paid and the world needs you to do;
  • Mission: what the world needs you to do and what you love to do.

Each of these four intersections, alone, do not bring happiness in the long term. The same happens with the intersection of, for example, three of these domains, which can lead to bad feelings such as:

  • Distaste: when you do something with proficiency, it is something that the world needs you to do, you are paid, but you have no love for what you do;
  • Scarcity: when you love what you do, have proficiency, it is something that the world needs you to do, but you are not paid;
  • Incompetence: when you love what you do, it is something that the world needs you to do, you are paid, but you have no proficiency;
  • Unusefulness: when you are paid for what you do, love to do, have proficiency, but the world does not need what you do.

In this case, how to find the balance in Ikigai?

With perseverance and will

Ikigai is a continuous search and it is up to each one to seek it daily to find the center of these four domains and the purpose of life. “Finding the ikigai is to seek every day to get close to this center, and the purpose of life is completely related to this journey, and not its arrival”, explains Terentim.

How can I find and define Ikigai?

If you think there is a step by step to find your Ikigai, you can rethink your concepts. “There is no step by step. We, westerns, have this need to seek models and methods, but Ikigai does not work like this.”

Terentim makes a brief analysis about how our vision of the world has changed in recent times, and how, today, the tendency to seek a path ready for something and not persevering in a choice is increasingly present.

“Today, even relations are much more superficial. In the old times, much more was valued on the repair of things, as well as in the relationships, in which we invested as much as possible so that it made sense, and separating or breaking up was not such a simple choice. Both in the matrimonial, interpersonal or professional relationships, separation was not the first option, but a consequence of several frustrated attempts to repair.”

Ikigai is not to seek something new, but to seek, in what you have today, a new meaning”, defines the professor.

Bonus: a moment of reflection

Terentim concludes this subject with some questions that can help you in the search for Ikigai:

  • Will you be able to love more what you have today?
  • Will you be even better in what you already do today?
  • Will you manage to make your money last more?
  • Will you manage to live better with the money you already have?
  • Will you manage to refind the purpose of your company?
  • Will you manage to rediscover the meaning of your company in the life of others around you and understand the good it brings to the world?

Take advantage of the year that started and do these reflections.

By seeking every day your Ikigai, you will be closer to finding your life purpose. Besides, if you want to know more content like this, you can register for a graduate course, such as the MBA USP/Esalq in Project Management. How about it? Enjoy!


Acacio Junior
Acacio Junior
Husband, Christian, in love with life and good friendships. A long journey until here made possible my integration on the Communication world, and now I venture into production of written contents and, honestly, I could not be happier. Currently, I found myself in the scripts and the daily learnings in a world full of stories I hope to discover.