A Practical Guide to Ikigai, Your Reason for Being

Jason R. Waller
Ascent Publication
Published in
8 min readApr 13, 2020

Photo by AndriyKo Podilnyk on Unsplash

By now, most of you have seen or heard of this beautiful word ikigai (EE-kee-guy). In brief, ikigai is a Japanese concept for someone’s direction and purpose in life. It’s their reason for being.

The ikigai concept and framework have gotten a lot of attention for their association with happiness and longevity. Indeed, the idea comes from Okinawa, where residents have some of the highest life expectancies in the world.

But I’m more interested in its value right here, right now. I love ikigai as a tool for my clients when they’re thinking through what’s next. I love ikigai for me and how I think about purpose in life. Here is what the ikigai model looks like:

Image by Jason R. Waller

In the ikigai model, there are four main areas of inquiry:

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

Which lead to four intersections and outcomes of:

  • Passion
  • Mission
  • Vocation
  • Profession

I find this approach to be just an amazing entry point to a lot of self-discovery and awareness. I think about it often. It defines in clear, compelling imagery that there is no single factor that defines our reason for being.

So how can we start practically asking the questions that lead to this understanding? Here are 12 ideas on digging deeper, 3 for each area of inquiry.

What you’re good at

“Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truths, and know what tools you have to fulfill your purpose.” — Steve Maraboli

This is the starting point, beginning with self-awareness. For some of us, this is the easiest part of ikigai to figure out. For others, we are either blind to our strengths or choose to push them out of sight and out of mind. But this is a critical area of our lives.

Jason R. Waller
Ascent Publication

Executive coach to CEOs and leaders. Partner at evolution.team. Speaker, combat veteran, ex-consultant. Top writer in Leadership. www.jasonrwaller.com