How To Apply Ikigai Principles To Improve Work Life Balance


“Yer a Wizard, Harry” it was at this moment Harry knew… that he had found his Ikigai. For the next eight movies and books, Harry pursued what he loved; he was good at it, and most importantly, it served his world. 

While we’re not sure if Harry found a work-life balance with his Ikigai, we can indeed find a balance with our Ikigai. Here’s how– Ask yourself these four simple questions:

  1. Are you passionate about what you do?
  2. Are you good at what you do?
  3. Can you make a living out of it?
  4. Does the world need it?

Suppose your answer is a resounding “yes” congratulations! You’ve already found your Ikigai.

What is Ikigai? 

Ikigai is a Japanese idea made out of a confluence of two words, “Iki,” meaning “Life,” and “Gai,” meaning “Purpose.” Together, it means– “purpose of life.” Much like life, Ikigai is not a destination; it’s a journey. It is the reason to get up every morning. 

In this article, we’ll figure out ways to apply Ikigai principles for a better work-life balance. 

Ikigai And Work

Once out of college, we’re all in hot pursuit of a high-paying job. A few years into our careers, most of us find ourselves chasing an elusive idea called “work-life balance.” Thankfully for us, with Ikigai, it may not be as elusive as it may seem. 

Here’s the truth— aligning your passion with what you do for a living can be tricky. Your desires may not necessarily be what you’re good at and what you’re good at may not necessarily pay well. While these incongruences in life may seem overwhelming, you can still conquer them by separating each of them. Here’s how you can do it:

1. What You Love = Passion

Passion is any compelling emotion of feeling– like love or hate. The best way to maintain an ideal work-life balance is by doing what you’re passionate about during the breaks. This way, you can break away from the work cycle and find bliss in what you love. 

How to pursue your passion?

  • Embrace the idea that not every passion can be converted into a vocation. Some are purely for bringing happiness. For example, if you’re passionate about helping others, use your weekends to volunteer in a community clean-up campaign or sign up to provide food to the homeless. 
  • Sometimes if you have a passion, you can monetize- for example, singing, making artwork, and others. But for some reason, if you’re not good at it, making a cut in the market can be tricky. In such cases, you can continue pursuing your passion as a side hustle. 

2. What You’re Good At = Profession

If your passion aligns with what you’re good at, there’s nothing like it! But if it doesn’t, you still shouldn’t worry. 

How to choose a profession?

Choosing your passion as your profession may sound appealing, but you may only sometimes be good with your passion. In some cases, your passion may not be monetarily rewarding. If you find yourself in such a position, make sure you choose the one you’re good at. 

For example, if you’re passionate about helping others and are good at graphic designing, you can become a graphic designer and a philanthropist with the money you earn. 

Why should you choose a profession you’re good at?

Your day will be much easier if you are good at what you do. By the end of the day, you’re still energetic and have enough time to unwind and spend with your family.

3. What The World Needs = Mission

    Almost every profession in the world adds value. However, if you feel that a particular job adds more excellent value to the world, make it your mission to make it a priority. 

    Why do you need a mission?

    All of us search for the meaning of our existence. While there is no objective and tangible way to find meaning in our lives, a mission to do good for the world can give you a sense of direction and purpose. 

    Ikigai is all about finding life’s purpose. 

    4. What Can You Be Paid For = Vocation

    Money shouldn’t be the only purpose of life. However, making money with your passions and what you’re good at doesn’t hurt. Moreover, it gives you enough time to contemplate your life and passions. 

    Why does money matter?

    The higher you earn, the more sense of control you have over your life. While it is true that money cannot buy happiness, there is a reasonable degree of satisfaction when you get a monetary reward for your efforts. 

    Contrary to what most people would like to believe, money can influence your recreation. The higher you earn, the more you can travel. Furthermore, it can also have an impact on your passions. With money, you can pursue a passion as a side hustle or take up philanthropy if it makes you happy. Thus, your paychecks can also help you have a better work-life balance. 

    Now that you know how 4 Ikigai principles can help you find a work-life balance, how can you find your Ikigai?

    How To Find Your Ikigai?

    Most people conflate their “profession” as their purpose in life. It could be ideal to have all the principles of Ikigai in one profession. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. 

    1. Your Profession ≠ Ikigai

    Ikigai is not confined to what you do for a living. It also includes your passions. For most of us, our passions, professions, and worldviews are different. The trick to finding your Ikigai is to embrace all of it and treat them as separate parts of life. 

    Make room for your passion, profession, mission, and vocation. Though they could all be different, they can exist together in harmony. 

    2. You Can Have More Than One Ikigai

    Ikigai is often misunderstood as the single most crucial purpose of your life. Contrary to popular perceptions of Ikigai, you can embrace multiple goals in life. You and I are dynamic personalities. We would want to simultaneously be a father, mother, architect, and philanthropist. Does that mean we don’t have an Ikigai? No, it simply means that you have multiple Ikigai. And all of them are just as important. 

    Make sure to make room for everything and try to create a balance between them. 

    3. The Japanese Way Of Life

    More specifically- it’s the Okinawan way of life. Apart from healthy dietary habits, the Okinawans partake in rich community life. They work together, help each other and form a close bond between themselves. Most join one or more “Moai”-an informal group of friends who meet regularly and bond over shared interests. They also pool money together to support public works.

    We, too, can learn from the Okinawan lifestyle by participating in community activities and understanding the true meaning of life. 

    Final Thoughts On Ikigai

    Ikigai is not just about your profession. It’s about finding a purpose in life. It allows you to explore outside work and find a balance between work and life. 


    What are the best Ikigai books?

    Ikigai: the secret to a long and happy life | Buy Now
    Ikigai for leaders and organizations | Buy Now
    How to Ikigai: Lessons for finding happiness and living your life’s purpose | Buy Now
    The little book of Ikigai | Buy Now
    Ikigai: Giving everyday meaning and joy | Buy Now

    Ikigai TED talks you should not miss

    TED talk by Tim Tamashiro- the author of “How to Ikigai” | Watch now
    TED talk by Gangadharan Menon- an Indian photographer and writer | Watch now
    TED talk by Emily Bidle | Watch now
    TED talk by Eddy Van Hemelrijck | Watch now

    How do I apply Ikigai to my life?

    Ikigai is about finding the purpose of life. You find and apply Ikigai by doing the following things–
    Do what you love (follow your passion)
    Do what you’re good at 
    Do what pays you
    Do what the world needs.
    Note that you don’t need to do one thing that encompasses all the above four Ikigai principles. You can have a passion different from your profession and still have a common Ikigai. 
    Also, remember that you can have multiple Ikigai at any time. 

    How Does Ikigai help us?

    Ikigai gives you a purpose to live and a meaning to life. It allows you to embrace the small things in life and live happily.

    How Is Ikigai Used In Business?

    Applying the principles of Ikigai to your business can make it more meaningful. You can also have a more significant impact on the world at large. 


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