Ikigai is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to — “a reason for being”, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and of meaning as well as a feeling of well being.

The word Ikigai derives from a combination of the words Iki, meaning life and Kai, meaning the realization of hopes and expectations.

The concept is an intersection, a common ground between the following:

What you love
What you are good at
What the world needs
What you can get paid for

What you love could be a hobby, something you enjoy doing and would do for free.

What you are good at could be related to specific skills you have like data, math, speaking in public, photography.

What the world needs are more “bigger picture” things like peace, environmental issues, world hunger, homelessness, etc.

What I can get paid for would be things you are qualified to do like teaching, research, project management.

When you combine what you love with what you are good at…you find your passion.

I love bugs and sharing knowledge. OK, maybe you got a blog on bugs. But does the world need it and can you get paid for it?

When you combine What you are good at with what you can get paid for, you get a profession.

I’m good at math and teaching so I’m a math teacher. I get paid for it…it’s a job, but I’m not necessarily passionate about it and the world has many math teachers as it is.

Matching what I can get paid for and what the world needs becomes a vocation.

I’m coordinating efforts to eradicate homelessness in my city. The world needs it and they’ll pay me for it. But that’s not my passion and really, I’m not that good at it.

Matching what you love and what the world needs is a mission.

You are an advocate for biodiversity and you decide to take a mission into the Amazon to save the forest. It’s awesome and the world needs it. But perhaps you don’t have that many skills in this area to make a really big impact and it doesn’t pay well if at all.

If you have 3 of the 4, for example, …you are close but not all the way.

As we look at the image again, you will see that if you have what you love, what you are good at and something you can get paid for…but that the world doesn’t necessarily need more of (I’m awesome at numbers and love spreadsheet so I’m an accountant).

Great profession but unless you are an accountant for a cause or a mission that is important to you and the world needs, you will find satisfaction but a feeling of uselessness.

What you love, what the world needs and what you are good at…but can’t get paid for it? Missionary in Africa to teach English as a 2nd language. You love it, you are good at it, the world needs it…but doesn’t pay well.

You will have delight and fullness, but no wealth. Which can be fine for some…not for others.

What the world needs, You can get paid for it and you are good at it…but it’s not something you love?

You will be comfortable, but you will have a feeling of emptiness.

And finally have something that you love, the world needs it and you can get paid for it…great! But you aren’t good at it, at least not yet…

It will be exciting and complacent, but might provide a sense of uncertainty.

The IKIGAI concept is to look at all 4 circles, and through a process of elimination and introspection identify which careers would be the best fit for you and your skillset. The goal is to find something that you enjoy doing, that you are good at, that you can get paid to do and that there is a need in society for.

Then you have found your ideal dream career path.

That is the person who never works a day in their life since what they do for a living isn’t considered a job to them. It’s what they love to do and they are good at it. They have found their purpose and the world needs what they have to offer.

Now don’t despair if it doesn’t happen right away. Some people only have 1 of the 4, most probably have 2 of the 4, and a few more might get to 3 of the 4 aspects.

Only a select few people have made it to a point that they have all 4, but that doesn’t take away the idea that you should pursue your IKIGAI to live a fulfilled life.

Many have been able to do so by matching a career that they are good at and perhaps they get paid for very well, then finding a hobby, pass-time, passion or cause that covers the other 2 aspects of their IKIGAI making them happy and fulfilled in the process.

A mentor of mine once said that finding your true meaning in life is like an archeology project. For most people, you discover and uncover it a little at a time.

Going through the IKIGAI exercise is a very good start of that process.




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Charles-Edouard McIntyre

Charles-Edouard McIntyre


President of Career Year Academy International, author of Career Expert Secrets, College Professor, Entrepreneur, Business Coach, Married father of 4 great kids