The concept is called Ikigai, and it is a Japanese term that roughly translates to “reason for being.” I was immediately intrigued and set about learning everything I could about this framework and how it applies to my life. What I discovered helped to bring into focus a “theory of everything” that I’ve struggled for years to articulate on my own. What is Ikigai? Ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is, above all else, a lifestyle that strives to balance the practical, theoretical, pysical and the spiritual. This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a certain existential frustration that stemmed from the conflicting desires. One one hand, I wanted to live a life of meaning and consequence. On the other, I wanted to enjoy the lifestyle that came along with money.
The result was an infuriating struggle between the things that made money and the things I truly cared about. I set out to solve this with a concept I called “Habitual Entrepreneurship,” which tried to find the right balance between these seemingly conflicting goals. However, I always felt it was missing a certain something that I could never put my finger on. I now believe that Ikigai is the refined version of the concept I was looking for. It is, simply put, your reason for getting out of bed every morning.
Discovering your Ikigai, One of the many mistakes I’ve made in my life was believing that money led to fulfillment. That’s largely why I went into information technology and management in the first place. When I think back on those days, I can’t help but think of the James Taylor lyric “you can play the game and you can act out the part,even though you know it wasn’t written for you.” It never felt right, but I thought that if I had money, then I could have an impact on the world. What I learned, however, is that form follows intent. To discover you Ikigai, you must first find what you’re most passionate about. Then, you find the medium through which you can express that passion. Steve Jobs is a fantastic example of this idea. It’s easy to think of Jobs as a titan of technology, but that would be inaccurate. Jobs was a lover of fine craftsmanship, first and foremost.
Whether it was a matter of collecting handmade Japanese tea cups or obsessing over design details of various products, he wrapped himself in his passion for finely made items. Apple and Pixar were merely his chosen mediums of expression. This is something that I can relate to. I’d be lying if I said that I always cared deeply about technology. Truth be told, those things are not particularly meaningful to me in and of themselves. What I am passionate about is being real, the truth, and helping people live up to their highest potential in life.
My company Efficiently You is simply the vehicle through which I can take these passions, apply them to the things that the world needs, and make a profit in the process. In other words, Efficiently You is my Ikigai. A transformative realization. This is not to say that work is the most important thing in my life. That honor falls to my family. While I’m far from perfect, I strive to make sure that they are the center of my life.
However, there’s a difference between the things that are important in your life and your life’s work. Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfillment, and balance in the daily routine of life. It’s all too easy to fall victim to siloed thinking, that our job, family, passions, and desires are all separate and unrelated aspects of our lives. The fundamental truth of Ikigai is that nothing is unbalanced. Everything is connected and habitual.
This realization has changed my outlook for the better. Whether you call it Ikigai or Habitual Entrepreneurship, the truth remains. It is possible to be true to your passions, live a life of consequence, and still use business as a medium of expression. At the intersection of all of this are feelings of peace and lasting happiness that can sustain us throughout our entire lives.