Ikigai: Work that makes you happy

Ikigai is a Japanese concept and philosophy for finding happiness through purpose finding the intersection of what you love, what you're good at, what the world needs, and what can provide a living. The word "ikigai" is a combination of "iki" (life) and "gai" (benefit, value, or worth).

Getting started with Ikigai

Ikigai can take a lifetime, thus "now" is always the best time to start your journey. The following exercise should take about an hour or less, and will help you discover the intersection between the four key elements of ikigai.

1. Gather materials

To get started you'll need:

  • A pen or pencil
  • At least one piece of paper
  • A timer
  • A highlighter (optional)

Instead of pen and paper you can use a tablet or computer, though I suggest something that supports writing by hand.

2. Draw four boxes

Divide your paper (or screen) into four sections, one for each element of ikigai:

  • Passion
  • Proficiency
  • Purpose
  • Profit

3. Write down your passions

Start your timer for 10 minutes. In the Passion box, write down all the activities, interests, and hobbies that you love or enjoy doing. It's best to write as quickly as possible to avoid overthinking. List everything that comes to mind, don't worry about what's possible or practical or what others might think. Just write. Stop when the timer goes off.

If you feel stuck, here are a few questions to guide you:

  • What activities or hobbies do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • Are there any topics or fields that you find particularly interesting or exciting?
  • When you think about the things you love doing, what emotions or feelings come to mind?

4. Write down your proficiencies

Again, start your timer for 10 minutes. In the Proficiencies box, write down what you're good at: List your skills, talents, and abilities.

Here are a few questions that might help you write more:

  • What do people complement you on?
  • What awards or recognitions have you earned?
  • What do skills do people ask you for help with?

Again, write down as much as you can before the 10 minute timer goes off, then stop.

5. Write down your purposes

Once again, start your timer for 10 minutes. In the Purpose section, write down your values and principles.

Here are some questions to help you focus:

  • What is most important to you in your life?
  • What social issues are you passionate about and why?
  • What do you hope people say about you at your funeral?

Once again, keep writing as quickly as possible until the timer goes off, then stop.

6. Reflect, brainstorm, and create a follow-up plan

Spend whatever remaining time you have for this exercise reflecting on the intersections, themes, and connections between what you've written so far. Circle or highlight what you find, and annotate the page with any additional thoughts you have. Ask yourself: "What gets me excited?" and make a list of specific actions you can take to pursue what you're most interested in and excited about.

7. Follow-through

You may not find your perfect ikigai during this exercise, but it can help you gain valuable insights and a starting point for further exploration. Keep your list of actions with you, look at them regularly, and follow-through. As you learn more, repeat this exercise and refine your list until you land on something you're truly passionate about, capable of pursuing, helps give meaning to your life, and that you can make enough money doing.

Deeper Knowledge on Ikigai: Reasons to Wake Up in the Morning

ChatGPT as an Ikigai Coach

ChatGPT as an Ikigai Coach

A useful ChatGPT prompt to help you align your passion with your source of income

Broader Topics Related to Ikigai: Reasons to Wake Up in the Morning



The catch-all positive emotional state

Ikigai: Reasons to Wake Up in the Morning Knowledge Graph