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My Ikigai

I have seen the term Ikigai coming up in different feeds recently and decided to look into it a bit more. It’s the Japanese term and model used to find your “reason for being”. It has been around for a long time but is now being hailed as the new Hygge. There are books and TED talks and articles aplenty.

For me the idea of identifying your reason for being has been of interest for a long while. Having left the corporate world over 15 years ago, it’s on my mind when looking for work and activities to keep me busy. Those who know me, know I am not a “lets spend my day cleaning the house” type of person, much to my husbands dismay, so finding things that make me want to get up in the morning and head to my home office desk is important. I am also not a particularly good Completer Finisher, so getting a job -that doesn’t fill me with excitement- done, is always a challenge.

I realised pretty early on that my driver was about making a difference to other people, whoever that was, a new client, a delegate on a course who was struggling with connecting the pieces, or family member or friend working with their own challenges.

The four main thought elements in the Ikigai model are:-

  • What you love doing

  • What the world needs

  • What you can be paid for

  • What you are good at

These are a great starting point for setting up an enterprise. I tried to image how my work would be impacted if just one of these areas were missing, and how that would affect my ability to run a high functioning and well performing business.

Scenario 1 – The Hobby

You find the thing you love to do the most, it’s even something useful and you’re good at it, but no one wants to pay for it. With technology growing so fast, and our world of instant gratification, there are many functions, which have lost their financial worth. These things could become a hobby rather than a business. It doesn’t mean we should stop doing them, but manage your expectation about making a living from it.

Scenario 2 - The Burden

So you find something people need and are willing to pay for, great, it even falls into your area of expertise, but you just don’t love it. There is no passion in your heart for it, it actually makes you feel miserable having to drag yourself out of bed in the morning to start work, this is your burden. I am pretty sure there are many people out there who are feeling this one.

Scenario 3 – The Folly

Now you have found something you can sell, you actually love this thing and you're pretty good at it too. But is it really needed? Maybe you can sell ice to the Eskimos but how long can you keep that up? It may feel like a great gig to start with, but it really is just a folly and has no sustainability.

Scenario 4 – The Poison Chalice

Finally the forth option. You uncover something people need, they are willing to pay for it, you are even very excited about the prospect of it, but it’s not in your current skill set. Now you are left feeling inadequate, you struggle every day trying to learn and improve, but it’s too much of a challenge for you. This is your Poison Chalice, the Peter Principle maybe. You are out of your depth and running out of breath.

The only solution is to tick all four boxes. Then you will find something sustainable, profitable, engaging and enlightening. In the words of the model, your vocation, mission, profession and passion. All these things result in “your reason for being”.

What are you currently doing? Does it tick all four elements? If not, figuring out which one is missing gives you a great insight to what you need to change. Check out the module and let me know if you are experiencing one or more of the above scenarios.

If you find you are working in your Ikigai, lucky you, let me know about that too, I love to hear how you managed it. Email me at

Written by Viki Johnston, a Brit, who recently moved to Southern California with her family, is a self-confessed learning junkie. Having flunked out of school at 16, she spent the next 30 (cough) years trying to figure out why learning stuff is so hard. She made it her mission to help others believe in their abilities and achieve more than they thought possible. Now through her coaching and business focused training she helps others to experience the “light bulb moment” and strive to greatness.

Her heroes are Sir Richard Branson and Brené Brown for their inspiration, and her Husband, whom without she would never have been able to live a life full of her own “light bulb moments”.


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