Forget Ikigai

Issue : Lifestyle

By: Amy Sumin


At one point, we have all contemplated the “big questions” such as, “what is the meaning of life?” or “what is my purpose in my life?” Walk into a bookshop or conduct a quick google search and you will find the varied answers of many thinkers that often agree upon certain traits that link us with humanity, this pursuit of clarity and fundamental reason for being. The answers to these questions largely shape the worldviews that form the blocks of how our society runs, ranging from answers such as “I don’t know”, “to raise a good family” or “be a good shopkeeper” that align to executing your given role well, to “the purpose is to create and discover the meaning in the quest”, “to help other people and do my part in society”,“discovering myself”, “making profit”, “enjoying life” or “there is no meaning”. The rise of many popular theories on this matter cross over into our politics and religion, into our collective aims, imbed into our educational system, and guide the masses into spending their lives in aligned lifestyles. As Socrates apparently said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”.


ikigai support picts


If we are honest, most of us aren’t clear enough on our personal answers to these questions to be able to write a statement; yet we all have basice assumptions for these that mould our everyday. Since this affects us so, shouldn’t we have a well-thought out statement that we could post on our wall or share confidently with others as we would an elevator-pitch? If a business requires a strong vision statement, and if countries require constitutions, then surely our personal lives require a level of written awareness of the direction, aims and underlying beliefs? Furthermore, these statements need to be constantly revisited and edited to keep us aligned in our enlightened progress.  


IKIGAI Meants to be


I remember the first time I saw the Ikigai diagram, I scoffed. This Japanese concept of “the reason for being” or “reason for getting up in the morning” is used as a tool to indicate what adds value in your life. It really reflected this age-old question that still largely troubles people today, from the high school graduate seeking which university course to pursue to the unfulfilled corporate man who traded passion for security. There is an evident lack of structured support or widespread, effective development in this area of psychology, self-awareness or personal growth that specialists such as Tony Robbins have capitalised on the need for. For how can you choose a career without first deeply assessing your aims? How can you orientate your actions and focus to something undefined? You cannot skip these crucial steps- yet many seemingly do. It – also - reminded me of some diagrams that I had previously contemplated and drawn back in Feb 2018 that struck a similar chord, and which I am sharing in this article (please note, this is completely my own intellectual property).


country fields Japan


I believe that the meaning of life is the same for all people, but the “purpose” is an individual reflection. Please reflect upon the following diagrams and follow up with a written statement on your “purpose”:


Ikigai 1


This is a tool measuring how meaningfully you have lived as you progress from Level 1 upwards to Level 4.

Level 1: Survival - the caveman instinct to protect and provide for self and family in sustaining your basee needs.

Level 2: Relationships - no man is an island and humans are communal creatures by nature. Nobody can escape ‘Ubuntu’ or the large concepts of “love” that give life colour and meaning. Growing in relationships comprises many factors such as communication, empathy, and social intelligence skills in how we relate and deliver meaningful exchanges.

Level 3: Growth - this comprises of learning and dealing with constant changes in a way that can be built upon sustainably to create a sense of directed progress.

Level 4: Legacy- this is the level that everyone should aim to reach and maximise. Firstly, they must ponder what specific legacy they wish to leave, but legacy in general is something long-lasting beyond their grave. A contribution to what is beyond themselves – hopefully, to give back and to make things better.


ikigai 2


This is to be reflected upon individually and honestly. Purpose lies at the cross-junction.

Your unique person: comprises of your personal interests, strengths, limitations, and growth.

The context is where you find yourself: your country and location, the culture, the zeitgeist of the era, e.g. technological revolutions, political and economic structures in place, opportunities available, what you’re exposed to, really reflect upon the “focus-value*”*.

The need: strongly linked with the context - this is more specific to being aware of what is around you that you can provide value to. This is ever changing to present conditions, e.g. the need in one moment of an elderly lady who needs help carrying her basket, or the passing disengaged youth in need of encouragement.


Japan posture


Hence, I don’t believe “purpose” is ever stagnant or limited to one particular role. Your ever changing unique person, the ever changing context, the ever changing needs - these create fresh purposes. If you change your context, I believe your sense of purpose will also change. However, certain needs are more universal than others and equipping skill development to meet these should be chosen and focused on.


Japanse statue


*This is a term I have coined to express where the value in your society lies- where the invisible currents drive focus, trends, and wealth, e.g. Sydney may have a strong business focus-value while, New Zealand may have a strong agricultural focus-value.


Japn atmosphere


Hence, your written purpose statement could be along the lines of:

I am interested in ___, I am good at___, unique traits about me are ___

My context is ___, the value-focus is ___

The common needs I am aware of are ___

All these combine to create my purpose-statement (how my individual-self interacts with the needs in my context) which is: ____


We would love to hear your written purpose statements or hear your thoughts on these diagrams, please send to Amy by

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