Ikigai – part 2

A couple of month ago I wrote about “Ikigai – The Japanese Formula for Happiness“. I had actually divided that topic into two parts because I felt it was too long a post for one, but I neglected to upload the second, so here follows is the second instalment.

Upon looking more closely at the Improvement Pill’s diagram which I introduced into Part 1, I wondered if that diagram was the complete picture. I searched google for Ikigai and found versions of the same diagram, but also ones that had explanations for the smaller segments of the Venn Diagram; IP’s short video hadn’t gone into that much depth.

You can see from the above more comprehensive diagram, that the internal segments have been utilised to illustrate areas that might be lacking and leading to a sense of uselessness, emptiness, uncertainty, and a lack of wealth, however I’m struggling to comprehend how this can be tool to assist us and guide us out of a rut.

With regards to both diagrams a criticism I have, as I’ve suggested already, is that to say what you do needs to be of benefit to ‘the world’ is excessive, perhaps unobtainable and therefore unrealistic, for the masses at least. I don’t think it needs to be the case that each and every one of us needs to be doing work that is blatantly for the benefit of ‘the world’ and this is because for most people (myself included) their brain doesn’t really compute ‘the world’ as being ‘The World’, rather, people and things in our local environment are what make up our world. That I might post a helpful topic on this here blog that is accessed by people from around the world is of little consequence to me (as far as my subconscious is concerned); a reader might live a mile up the road, but the interaction is the same if I never actually meet them, and in today’s world it seems that most of our interactions are via screen rather than face-to-face, irrespective of if they are local friends or family. Feeling of benefit to our local society/community is therefore likely to be just as good for our own happiness, where local is relative to our own perceptions. So just because you aren’t or have no interest in being an Elon Musk and supposedly saving humanity by developing interplanetary travel whilst developing what are perceived to be eco friendly vehicles and energy for our homes (there is a hint of scepticism in there!) you can still be of benefit to your world.

If you think your local efforts are pointless because they are only local, and you’re not Elon Musk, then you’re surely going to be downhearted. Whereas it seems to me that someone like Elon Musk perceives The World as his world; he seems to have little sense of a ‘small local community’ as it exists in a real sense. This is his perception. It’s possible of course that people in one camp could neglect, and/or do things that are at the detriment to, the other.

Sometimes there are things which can seem pointless, a prime example would be what I would class as truly trivial things, but some people seem to find an immense level of purpose from such a thing, and even earn a living from it.

Another thing I considered regarding the diagram and obtaining Ikigai, was that different aspects of our lives might satisfy different segments. Our job might simply provide us with an income, but our hobbies and interests outside of work might be what bring meaning to our lives. I’ve known many people be unhappy or unsatisfied because they don’t know what to do with their lives; perhaps they feel stuck in a ‘dead-end job’ and never knew what career path to take to begin with. Maybe obtaining required qualifications or a disability limited their options. However, now considering this in relation to the Ikigai Diagram perhaps such a mindset illustrates too high an expectation; not everyone, perhaps very few people, are fortunate to have a job or career that spans this Venn diagram in its entirety. The middle-ground would have a job that fulfils a few criteria, whereas at the bottom of this scale of fulfilling jobs would be one that only pays a wage. If this wage is low and our lives lack meaning in other areas, then things aren’t going to be good. Therefore the Ikigai Venn Diagram could be employed to good use by allowing us to place other things into the various segments.

Doing this makes me now consider people who keep themselves busy and involved with lots of different things and are happy because of this. This would imply that each of these things fulfil a different aspect of the Venn Diagram, leading to a fulfilling life. This seems to be the key to finding happiness more easily; rather than perpetually seeking or hoping to find (without seeking) that one magical thing that will satisfy us we can take on board anything or things that fulfil the different criteria until the Ikigai diagram is complete.

Perhaps one thing of note at this point should be the possibility of over-compensating in one area to try and make up for a lack in another.

Another way to employ the Diagram is to use it to avoid unbeneficial things. At worst these could be addictions that don’t serve any purpose* but are perhaps something we turn to in order to make up for a lacking in a particular area; often this is loneliness. However, the Ikigai Diagram seems to lack a segment for ‘Companionship’. This seems to be a major oversight considering we are said to be social creatures and the lack of regular social interaction can leave us feeling lonely and depressed. However, and this is my attempt to defend the Ikigai concept in this regard, if we pick out each of the segments in turn and state that ideally each of them would naturally involve other people, and this should be assumed, then we can perhaps see how the system works in this regard: Finding something you’re good at or love [and finding other people with similar skills/hobbies], having a paid job [and either working with or for other people you get along with]; this approach makes more sense to me.

It seems logical to me that aspects of our lives should fulfil at least two segments of the diagram. In this way meaning is found through this interlocking nature, whereas if one thing doesn’t hinge on or support something else then it can be simply replaced. Take a job that only pays a basic wage and provides little in the way of further fulfilment as an example; this job could be quite easily replaced after a time for another of a similar nature – we get bored and we move on. This can happen in relationships if who we’re with doesn’t fulfil us, or we don’t fulfil them, in more than one aspect.

Referring to the Ikigai diagram for the aspects of our lives such as these could help us see where we’re going wrong or what we need to change.

*Actually, addictions do serve a purpose in some way, although the harmful results are undesirable. I’m currently working my way through a book on NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming which reveals just this.


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