According to Marc Winn himself in less than an hour he changed the perception of ikigai and how to find it by merging a simple Venn diagram on ‘purpose’ with that of the Japanese concept. In turn he created the widely known ikigai venn diagram.
Marc humbly writes, “the sum total of my effort was that I changed one word on a diagram and shared a ‘new’ meme with the world.”
However short it took to visualize ikigai, his creation took hold.
Before then, people had only felt ikigai or described it using real-life examples of people’s passions or as something one lived for. There had been no concrete image associated with ikigai.
Ever since Marc’s new visualization, however, the ikigai diagram has become synonymous with finding one’s sweet spot in life.
Four components of the ikigai diagram
In its simplest form, the venn diagram provides a holistic view of ikigai with four components overlapping to identify one’s purpose in life.
While there is no debating that the convergence of these areas is truly the sweet spot and living such a life would mean one was following their ikigai, it is important to note that true ikigai is not bound to such a framework. Or rather, the relevance each area has on one’s purpose can vary considerably.
For all intents and purposes, let’s look at each component on the basis of one’s purpose in life.
Find what you love
Starting at the top of the diagram, the first and most essential component to finding and following your ikigai is “What you love,” or in other words, your passion.
Passion is the central core of ikigai and the only essential component in this diagram. It is a prerequisite to finding your ikigai and without first identifying what you love, one can argue that you really have not found your reason for living. In other words, unless you engage in doing something you actually love doing, then you are not following your ikigai.
It sounds simple enough, right?
Know what you are good at
Moving to the left side of the diagram, we find the component, “What you are good at.”
Here we see a type of interdependence in which your passion for something usually affects your skills or knowledge in that area. This is prevalent with those who are highly skilled in a specific task, most often because they find pleasure in doing it.
Furthermore, if you are good at a specific task, combining that talent with doing something that you love to do will surely bring you closer to your sweet spot. In essence, both hard and/or soft skills you possess can assist you on your path to living with purpose.
However, consider this: what if you are not as talented as you wished to be in a certain skill, but you still possessed a passion for following it?
For some of us, we may be just at the beginning of a long journey, and our skills are… challenged. That doesn’t mean that we have to stop pursuing our dreams, does it? Does one not have ikigai if they are not skilled?
Certainly not. In such a case, surely loving what you do is all you really need for purpose.
Furthermore, whether or not you are good at something, is a subjective matter at best. Really, who’s to say?
If I tell you I’m good, probably you will say I’m boasting.
But if I tell you I’m not good, you’ll know I’m lying.
– Bruce Lee
Identify what the world needs
Now let’s jump to the three o’clock position, “What the world needs.” Or, perhaps a more fitting expression may be, “What difference do you want to make in the world?”
Is there something about the way the world works that you want to make an impact on or that you want to change?
If so, you should ask yourself what you can do to make that change, i.e. your mission in life. Most likely, this would be in line with your passion and your skills.
An alternative viewpoint, however, is asking if one needs to impact the world in order to find their ikigai. Can one be comfortable with a passion that does not extend beyond one’s personal space? Sure.
Remember, your ikigai is really for you. There is no reason to set the bar so high if you don’t want to, especially if just starting out.
So, try not to get caught up in the literal meaning of “what the world needs.” There really are no rules to ikigai. Feel free to consider the needs of the world and the billions of people in it, or just focus on yourself. After all, what the world really needs is for you to just follow your ikigai.
Do what you can be paid for
The last component is “What you can be paid for.” Surely, this component may be the most difficult to achieve. After all, getting paid for your talents and passions to make the world a better place is certainly the sweetest of sweet spots.
However, if we hold true to the concept that everyone has an ikigai that is unique to their own being, we must recognize that achieving financial status is not for everyone.
Take, for example, a person who is passionate about driving may not want to drive for a living.
Much like the level of talent you possess or what you think the world needs, ikigai does not imply economic value.
A 2006 study conducted by the Silver Human Resources Centre (SHRC) showed that although male respondents associated “socioeconomic factors such as the size of their residence or annual income” among others such as physical condition with their ikigai, female respondents associated “family relations such as having a spouse and psychological factors such as satisfaction with one’s life history” with theirs.
A holistic view of ikigai
There is no doubt that the ikigai diagram can be an accurate representation of ikigai, but is it accurate to you?
While the four components fantastically illustrate a holistic view of ikigai that is both wise and easy to comprehend, your own ikigai is best suited for you, with or without a framework. In other words, an infographic cannot necessarily define your ikigai.
Indeed, there is a risk that this diagram could misrepresent the true meaning of the concept by suggesting you need all facets to converge to find your ikigai. Aside from doing something you love, one can still live a life of purpose with or without any of the other three missing components.
Much like David Carradine’s Grasshopper flashbacks on meaning and purpose, trying to understand life around him, the truth is much simpler and even easier to pursue. Ikigai is attainable for everyone, not just the very few.
Focus on yourself and identify what you enjoy doing. Then be practical about it. Build a strong foundation by taking small steps toward growth. Over time you will gain talent and skills, and take bigger steps, then hops, then leaps. But, only if you so choose.
All the while, be sure to enjoy a life that is meaningful to you.