Unlocking the Power of Ikigai: A Path to Fulfilment

In the fast-paced world finding balance and purpose can be a challenging endeavour. However, I recently came across a beautiful, profound concept known as Ikigai. A Japanese term that holds the key to achieving fulfilment and success. In this article, I will delve into the origins of Ikigai, explore its implications, understand its four essential rules and hopefully provide thought-provoking questions for each rule to support, challenge and develop our thinking with this transformative philosophy.

The Genesis of Ikigai

In recent years, as interest in Ikigai has grown globally, authors, scholars and experts have explored and popularised its principles, contributing to its widespread recognition and relevance as a guide for finding meaning and fulfilment in life. Ikigai, pronounced ‘ee-kee-guy,’ traces its roots to the Japanese island of Okinawa, renowned for its centenarians who enjoy long, purposeful lives.

The word itself is a fusion of ‘iki,’ meaning life, and ‘gai,’ signifying worth. At its core, Ikigai represents the intrinsic value and purpose that each person holds within themselves – its ability to resonate with the universal human quest for purpose, happiness and balance.

An illustration of Ikigai – imagine life as a grand puzzle, with countless pieces that form a complete picture. Ikigai serves as the central piece, the one that, when discovered and placed correctly, brings clarity and harmony to the entire puzzle. It’s the key to unlocking the full potential of existence.

Ikigai is timeless, and its philosophical position creates meaning for any generation. Its focus is on our human experience, something we all have in common. In today’s fast-paced and often chaotic world, the search for meaning and purpose remains a universal pursuit.

As an aside – it is interesting to note that we have even updated the word ‘purpose’ to now say we can have ‘purposes’. Does that bring more freedom or more pressure?

Ikigai serves as a guiding light, supporting individuals to reconnect with their passions, talents and the needs of society. It reminds us that true success is not just about financial gain but about living a life that is deeply meaningful and aligned with our innermost values. As such, Ikigai continues to be a beacon of relevance and wisdom in our contemporary world.

The Four Rules of Ikigai

The four rules of Ikigai have emerged as fundamental principles that contribute to a balanced and fulfilling life:

📌Rule No.1: Do What You Love

This rule encourages individuals to engage in activities they are passionate about. It promotes the idea that when you love what you do, work becomes a source of joy and enthusiasm. The pursuit of passions has been a timeless human aspiration, reflecting our intrinsic desire for happiness and fulfilment.

Questions for Reflection:

Q1: Are you passionate about your work or pursuits?

Q2: Do you feel a sense of joy and enthusiasm in what you do?

Q3: Can you imagine yourself dedicating your life to this passion?

Q4: Are you content with where you have spent your time, each and every day?

📌Rule No.2: What You Are Good At

Recognising and utilising one’s unique strengths and talents is a core aspect of human development. This rule suggests that by focusing on areas where individuals excel, we can not only boost our self-esteem but also make a positive impact on the world. It reflects the universal drive to achieve personal excellence and contribute to society.

Questions for Reflection:

Q1: What are your strengths and talents?

Q2: Do you excel in specific areas or skills?

Q3: Are you leveraging your abilities to make a positive impact?

Q4: Are you noticing how much of your time is spent in ‘flow’?

📌Rule No.3: Do What the World Needs

The idea of contributing to the well-being of others and addressing societal needs is deeply ingrained in human culture. This rule highlights the interconnectedness of individuals with our communities and the world at large. It emphasizes the innate human desire to make a meaningful and positive difference in the lives of others.

Questions for Reflection:

Q1: Are you contributing to the well-being of others?

Q2: Is your work or mission addressing a significant need?

Q3: Can you see the positive impact of your actions on a broader scale?

Q4: Do you feel at peace with where you are focusing your life?

📌Rule No.4: Do What You Can Be Paid For

Financial stability and sustainability are vital for a secure and balanced life. This rule acknowledges the practical necessity of earning a living and maintaining one’s economic well-being. It recognises that financial stability allows individuals to continue pursuing their passions and purpose without undue stress.

Questions for Reflection:

Q1: Are you financially sustainable in your chosen path?

Q2: Do you receive fair compensation for your efforts? Or are you in fair exchange?

Q3: Can you envision a stable future pursuing your Ikigai?

Q4: Is your mind and body at ease with the financial decisions you are making?

How do we develop an Ikigai approach to my life?

Finding your Ikigai? That is often the next question. You may be thinking: ‘I agree with everything that has been said, the four rules make sense – but what do I need to do in order to make this a lived experience – rather than an interesting article that doesn’t go any further than that?’

Well, this is the challenge. How will you pause, evaluate, reset to move forward, embracing this Japanese philosophy? Knowing that if you do so, your life will have more meaning, purpose and ultimately be more fulfilled – but also may require change!

And yes – you guessed it. There is no ‘one way’. Each person’s journey is just that – a deeply personal journey.

You will need to identify your passions and talents; explore what the world needs (and if I can offer a word of warning – I know I can get overwhelmed when thinking of the needs of the world – which can lead to an internal freeze, feeling powerless. Key to keep moving forwards – take small steps that are in my/our control); and finally, what can you be paid for.

To embark on this transformative path, here these seven ways to explore and uncover your unique Ikigai. Hopefully, they will start the process of aligning your innermost desires with the greater good of the world.

👉 Self-Reflection: As mentioned above, take time to reflect on your life, interests and values. What activities bring you joy and fulfilment? What matters most to you in the world?

👉 Passion Pursuit: Identify your passions and hobbies. What activities make you lose track of time? What would you love to do even if you weren’t paid for it?

👉 Skill Assessment: Recognise your unique strengths and talents. What are you naturally good at? How can you apply these talents to benefit yourself and others?

👉 Community Engagement: Get involved in your community and interact with others. What needs or issues in your community resonate with you? How can you contribute to their betterment?

👉 Life Experiences: Reflect on your life experiences, both positive and challenging. What have you learned from them? How can you use those lessons to guide your path?

👉 Mentorship and Guidance: Seek guidance from mentors, coaches and/or counsellors who can help you explore your passions and purpose more deeply.

👉 Experimentation: Be open to try new things and step into feeling and being ‘safely uncomfortable’. Experimenting with different activities and roles can lead you to your Ikigai.

Remember that finding your Ikigai is a journey of self-discovery and it may take time. It’s okay to explore multiple avenues before you feel a strong sense of alignment between what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.

Final Thoughts

By embracing the concept of Ikigai, you can transform not only your life but also the lives of those around you. It becomes a guiding philosophy, a North Star, supporting you to navigate the complex waters of your professional and personal life with wisdom, empathy and purpose.

In this exploration, we’ve uncovered the essence of Ikigai, its historical roots and the profound impact of its four rules. These elements combine to create a comprehensive framework for living a life of purpose and fulfilment making Ikigai a timeless and invaluable philosophy for individuals seeking balance and meaning in today’s dynamic world.

As you reflect on the principles of Ikigai, remember the pursuit of meaning is an enduring quest that transcends generations. Whether you find yourself in a world of rapid change or amidst the timeless tapestry of life, the concept of Ikigai stands as a guiding light, offering a profound path to fulfilment and a deeper understanding of who we are and where we are going.

“Embrace Ikigai’s wisdom, where your passions, talents and purpose(s) meet, unlocking a life of boundless fulfilment with no dream unturned.”


Pheona Croom-Johnson is Co-Founder and Academic Director of Sandown Business School. She has been in the OD field for over 35 years, partnering with Coaches, C-Suite and Senior Leaders. Pheona is a triple credentialed Master Coach (ICF, EMCC, AC), Master NLP Trainer, Team Coach Supervisor (ACTC, ICF) and credentialed Supervisor (ESIA, EMCC), IFS Trained therapist (Level 1) with psychological foundations (BPS). Get in touch to find out more about coaching, leadership and/or supervision.


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