Ikigai — unleash your true potential

What makes a Michael Phelps, a Michael Jordan, or a Tiger Woods? In the world of competitive sports, these athletes have managed to set themselves apart from the competition, and enter the realms of legends. How do they differentiate themselves when competing against the best in the world?

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. An ikigai can be described as ‘a reason to get up in the morning; a reason to enjoy life’. I believe that the superstars mentioned above, have all found their respective ikigais and committed significant time towards developing their crafts.

In this article I’ll explain in detail what comprises an ikigai, how you can find your ikigai and what to do after you’ve found your ikigai.

Figure 1: Ikigai diagram

An ikigai is the intersection of passion, profession, vocation and mission. It represents something you are good at, you can be paid for, the world needs and you love. If you are lacking in any one area, you are missing out on your life’s potential.

Once you find it, you are able to express yourself through your ikigai — the balanced, most fulfilled representation of your being. It becomes the one thing in the world you excel at, and the one thing you can do better than 99% of the population. Being able to dominate in one specific field is infinitely better than being mediocre in twenty different fields.

Figure 2: Mastering 1 activity (green) or being mediocre at 5 activities (red)

Imagine if Michael Phelps were to take up competitive bike riding while simultaneously swimming competitively. Would he be able to dominate the sport and win 18 Olympic gold medals? I think he would be great at both sports, given his competitive nature, however, he wouldn’t be the best in the world.

“Only one who devotes themself to a cause with their whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.”
-Albert Einstein-

How to find your ikigai?

Are you doing something you love?

Make a short list of the things you absolutely love doing. It has to be something you truly enjoy and cannot imagine being bored doing. The truth is, at some point during your journey, you will become bored of it, however, your love for it will keep you going, especially when the going gets rough. Thus, make sure the thing you want to do is something you love doing.

Are you doing something you’re good at?

It’s great if you are naturally talented or gifted in the activity. Mastery can be achieved over time, and if you have a natural ability at this activity, it will give you a head start.

Are you doing something you can be paid for?

This is where reality comes into the equation. You have to make a living and support yourself, so it’s important to figure out how you can monetize your skills. You’ll have to think creatively to find new ways of creating revenue, if the activity isn’t one that’s already well defined.

Are you doing something the world needs?

This component has a component which makes us feel that we are contributing to something larger than ourselves. Working to achieve something for yourself is fine, but working for something that contributes to society and the world at large, creates a sense of purpose larger than yourself. This will allow you to commit to your craft on a deeper, more spiritual level.


Finding your ikigai will take time. It could take a few days, months or even years. However, once you find it, you owe it to yourself to master your craft, and do what you were put here on this earth to do. Commit your mind and body to achieving mastery of your ikigai and success will follow.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all”

Have you found your ikigai?

Tell me in the comments section below!

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