Discovering Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Purposeful Life

Have you ever had one of those moments where you pause and wonder, “What’s my purpose in life?” If so, you’re not alone. Many of us grapple with this existential question, seeking a deeper meaning and purpose in our daily hustle and bustle. Today, I want to introduce you to a beautiful Japanese concept that might just help you find the answer: Ikigai.

Ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-gah-ee) is a term that doesn’t have a direct translation in English but can be understood as “a reason for being” or “what makes life worth living.” Imagine a compass guiding you through life, pointing you towards what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at, and what you can be paid for. The sweet spot where all these elements intersect? That’s your Ikigai.

In a captivating interview on UCSD.tv/careers, Neville Billimoria shed light on how this concept has influenced his life and career choices. He beautifully articulated how Ikigai isn’t just a philosophy but a lived experience, a compass that can guide each of us towards a more fulfilled and purposeful life.

So, as we dive deeper into this topic, I invite you to embark on this journey of self-discovery with me. Let’s explore Ikigai together and perhaps find that missing piece that brings everything into alignment.

The concept of Ikigai!

A diagram of ikigai from https://lieslfrank.com.au/

Ikigai is a “state” where you are in balance. Ikigai is often represented as the intersection 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)

The intersection of these four elements can help one find their purpose or meaning in life. Here’s a breakdown of the intersections:

  • The intersection of what you love and what you are good at is your Passion.
  • The intersection of what the world needs and what you can get paid for is your Mission.
  • The intersection of what you are good at and what you can get paid for is your Profession.
  • The intersection of what you love and what the world needs is your Vocation.

At the very center, where all these elements intersect, is your Ikigai, your reason for being.


Paul Bergman runs a business strategy and cybersecurity consulting company in San Diego. He writes on cybersecurity and board management for both corporate and nonprofit boards.

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