I came across this Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’ when I was watching the Olympics last month from Tokyo. It’s a term to discussing the key dimensions of your ‘reason for being’. This graphic from the Toronto Star is a good look at it, although you will find many others on the internet as well.
You can see that Ikigai represents the intersection of 4 overlapping circles, representing what you LOVE, what you are GOOD AT, what the WORLD NEEDS, and what you can be PAID FOR. The overlapping areas all represent different mind states, and at the center – where everything overlaps – is considered the most powerful way you can live your life.
I can definitely say that for a long time, I felt that I was living in the absolute center of this concept. I was a corporate officer at a big MegaCorp, running important businesses, and launching very visible innovation & campaigns. I was generously rewarded and loved what I was doing. I would say most of my career I was in that zone.
Becoming an early retiree doesn’t mean that I no longer feel I have a ‘reason for being’. The ”delight and fullness” that is described in the spot just above the Ikigai bullseye would be enough to keep me happy and content, but still I do enough non-profit and board work that I feel I am still contributing to the world and making a difference, as if I was working.
Besides, the idea of “no wealth” doesn’t really apply because we have savings that have accumulated so much. Even though our investing is pretty hands-off, you could argue we are still being PAID with ongoing income. Our wealth is higher than it was at the time of our FIRE escape five years ago.
Perhaps the concept is most instructional for younger people who haven’t yet put together all of the aspects of their lives. For them, I think it is helpful to see how you need all of these things to align. Find something you have a passion for, you are good at, and the world needs and financial success is likely to follow.
How do you relate to the concept of Ikigai?