News & Insights 25 June 2020


A couple of staff members from Action Tutoring recently attended a conference where Ian Windle, a TEDx and Leadership Speaker, introduced us to the concept of Ikigai, a Japanese term that roughly translates to “reason for being”, or “the happiness of being busy”. This blog shares some of the key points.


What is Ikigai?


Ikigai is often associated in the western world with a Venn diagram with four overlapping qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. These feed into what in life is your passion, mission, vocation and profession, and ikigai is found at the centre:

An unrealistic ideal?


My first thought was that it must be very rare to find your ikigai. On further reading, I understand that it’s perhaps more about making sure none of the circles are left ignored or uncultivated, and aiming for the intersections, if the middle can’t be achieved. 


Some can find their ikigai through work, but often it is difficult to find the balance between things that make money and the things you truly care about. In a survey of 2,000 Japanese men and women conducted by Central Research Services in 2010, just 31% of recipients considered work as their ikigai. Sometimes, your ‘day job’ is simply the vehicle through which you can be paid, and your ‘mission’ and ‘passion’ can be pursued or practiced outside of this. 


Cultivating passions


To discover your ikigai, some suggest that you must first find what you’re most passionate about, and then find the medium through which you can express that passion. Passions; such as music, sport, languages; can be practised for personal enjoyment but can also be a way to give back to your community and addressing ‘what the world needs’. For example, by volunteering to coach your community’s Sunday league, or running a weekly dance class for your friends. Finding a way to give back, whether through volunteering or another way, is an almost certain way of moving towards the ‘mission’ intersection. 


What can I give that the world needs?


If, when you ask yourself “what can I give that the world needs?”, your answer is that you don’t know, allow yourself the time to think it through. If there is a social or political issue you are passionate about, research charities, drives or community groups that you can join. 


Here are some tips on how to find opportunities that interest you:  


  • Find your local volunteering centre, or join an online volunteer network.
  • Check the flyer stands in your local area: often in libraries, cafes, places of worship and community halls.
  • Search on job sites: most advertise both paid roles and voluntary work.
  • If you are a student, ask for information on volunteering at your Student Union or attend a University Volunteer Fair. In light of Covid-19, it is likely that these will be online in the next academic year.


“Be led by your curiosity, and keep busy by doing things that fill you with meaning and happiness.”


― Hector Garcia Puigcerver, Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life

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