What’s Your Ikigai?

What’s Your Ikigai?

By Leigh Holland

Recently, my friend hit a wall. She struggled between trying to decide which things to write about. Should she write something she knew would sell, or should she write something she was passionate about? She’d gotten it into her head that these two things could never match up. I wondered how I could help.

Looking for inspiration and resolution, I did what most writers do: I surfed the internet. I discovered this Japanese concept called “Ikigai”. Ikigai is your reason for being and doing.

IkigaiImage from TheViewInside.

Your Ikigai lay at the center of four overlapping circles. I imagine four rivers meeting and forming waterfalls, their water pouring nourishment into the central pool of the spirit. When we receive a steady flow from all four rivers, we’re achieving our ikigai. We’re able to do what we love, what we’re good at, fulfill the needs of others, and make at least a basic income.

Most writers would answer that their ikigai is writing. After all, they’re passionate about it. They strive to be good at it and continuously improve. But sometimes, the imaginary-yet-all-too-real entity Hope Crusher whispers to us. She says, “It’s not good enough, it’s not what people want, it’s never going to sell.” And when we listen to Hope Crusher, we paralyze ourselves. Hope Crusher rolls out the writer’s block, damming up one or more of our ikigai rivers. Dust settles on our unfinished rough draft as we are consumed by doubt.

What are we to do?

Some suggestions can be found at my article Breaking Down The Wall.

Another idea is to get that water flowing again by reminding yourself of the following:

  1. Why do I write? What is it about writing that I love so much I don’t want to do anything else?
  2. Am I writing a story that has meaning for myself and for others? Is its theme meaningful? What do I want to say about my theme/themes?
  3. If you’re not sure how to answer #2 above, ask yourself “What has been my greatest struggle?” Follow it up with, “What did I learn from it?” Don’t think “nobody wants to hear about that”. You have the power to weave beautiful meanings in a pattern of words. Bring me along for your journey. Inspire me. Make me feel. Show me things that will broaden my thinking and feeling about the world. The stories that stick with us have enduring themes and elicit emotion.
  4. Having done this, formulate your statement of purpose. Write it down as a talisman to ward off Hope Crusher the next time she tries to come around.

May you find and always live out your ikigai.


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