I recently discovered a Japanese concept I love even more than Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and I love that one a lot.  

It’s called Ikigai.  Ikigai is the confluence of what you love, what you’re good at, what you can be rewarded for and what the world needs.  Translated literally, it means "a reason for being." The word is used to indicate the source of value in your life.  Or simply put, the reason we get up in the morning. 

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As a woman who spent last spring on a quest for purpose, the concept of Ikigai struct a profound chord as it opened my eyes to two pieces of the “how do I live my best life?” equation I had yet to consider.  


Searching for what I love.  Yep.  Good at that.  I have lists upon lists of what makes me happy.  What I am grateful for.  What my values are.  Word clouds and mind maps.  Got that piece taken care of.  Check!


Part of the self-discovery process for myself was unearthing what I was good at.  Since usually you love what you have a natural gift for, I made a list of that too.  360 feedback helped as well cause damn it is hard sometimes to be honest with yourself - especially when it is the good stuff that often feels braggadocios.  Also, check!


The third piece is focused on what you can be rewarded for.  Traditionally, this is defined as being paid for your work, but I am choosing to interpret it differently.  Once, the CEO at an old ad agency of mine gave me a hand-written letter thanking me for my effort.  She also included a check.  I was so excited to share the note with my husband.  When I did, he asked what the other piece of paper inside the envelope was?  I shrugged it off which he sincerely didn’t understand.  The note meant so much more than the check.  Being valued for my contribution is the ultimate reward for me.  Yes, I value being valued - go figure.  


But what really struck me about the concept of Ikigai was the idea of looking at what the world needs.  I have always wanted to make an impact on the world - I mean who doesn’t, especially with the current state of things?  In my job, advertising sausages and yogurt didn’t make me feel like I was helping inch our society closer to a state of bliss.  But to be honest parts of it did, because I did leave an impact on MY world.  I made a mark on my small community thru mentorship, culture change, cheerleading and support.  That’s something.  Imagine if everyone did that?  What a movement that would be.

I am getting closer and closer to unearthing my Ikigai.  And because the universe is beautiful, a friend invited me into her fold to create a brand that is everything I believe in.  And I said YES.  And we are currently crafting something I love, I am good at, can we rewarded for and is what the world needs.  

When I work on this project, I achieve total flow and can’t sleep because I am bursting with adrenaline and ideas.  That my friends, is Ikigai.

Ikigai is the confluence of what you love, what you’re good at, what you can be rewarded for and what the world needs.  What’s yours?


Melissa BertlingComment