Ikigai – an inspiration from Japan: I believe that one of the reasons that the business world is in turmoil and people are saying “the way we are working isn’t working anymore”, is that business leaders are disconnected from their values and their passions, in their ever more desperate scramble for short-term profits. The more I read about the culture at Volkswagen, the more I can see this play out.
At Heart in Business Limited we believe the ‘answer’ to this is for companies to be ‘in-flow’ with everyone in the organisation doing what they passionate about – we define this as doing what you love and are good at. This is the sweet spot in the top right quadrant:
The Japanese have taken this idea one step further with what they call ‘Ikigai’ (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) –which literally means ‘a reason for being’.
In the culture of Okinawa, ‘ikigai’ is thought of as ‘a reason to get up in the morning’, that is, a reason to enjoy life. The word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances in which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. Interestingly enough, it is not necessarily linked to one’s economic status, so no matter how big your bonus or paycheck is, you won’t feel fulfilled without discovering your ‘ikagai’.
As you can see, it builds on our in-flow matrix, with passion being the overlap between what you LOVE and what you are GOOD AT. Add to this what the world NEEDS and what you can be PAID FOR.
So consider the position of a typical CEO. No doubt they are likely to be well PAID FOR their role. And sure they are bound to spend a chunk of time doing what they are GOOD AT – otherwise they probably not have made it to CEO in the first place. Yet how much time do they spend doing what they LOVE doing? And how much of what their company produce does the world really NEED, especially if you net off the environmental impact? While clearly the US car market needed fuel-efficient cars of the nature VW were marketing, not at the expense of breaking emission regulations, with the consequent impact on human health.
I consider myself fortunate in that I believe I have found my ‘ikigai’, which I did a few years ago when I realised my life’s purpose was to help put the Heart back into Business. I have no doubt that the world NEEDS this, I LOVE what I do (and love it enough to get me through the tough dark days we all face from time to time), I am told I am GOOD AT it and thanks to my work at Thornton’s Budgens and Heart in Business Limited, I can be PAID FOR this. I say I am fortunate rather than lucky – I think it was the golfer Arnold Palmer who said “the more I practice, the luckier I get”. I got to my ‘ikigai’ through hard work, deep inner examination and with help from various groups I am part of (such as The Celebration of Being and the Mankind Project) and a few therapists along the way. Hard work and so well worth it!
So I ask you to consider how you stack up on each of the four areas – have you found your ‘ikigai’? If yes, fantastic.
If no, well then consider what do you need to do to get there – can I invite you, now, to write down three simple steps you can take in the next 6 weeks to start to get you there. And from that place, you can write down the next 3 steps, as you slowly and surely find you path.
Feel free to contact us should you want to know more.
Andrew Isaac Thornton