Ikigai—reach beyond New Year’s resolutions and goals.

Tammy Allen, Director | Marketing & Programs, The NIIC
Photo by The NIIC

In this season of New Year’s resolutions and goal setting (integral to success), what would happen if we strive for something greater? A driving force for all we do in our lives? Enter, ikigai—a Japanese term meaning “a reason for being.” What would happen if we all lived from that place?

My place, my ikigai? I positively live to make a difference in our world. Positivity is my choice. Coming from a family of strong women (mom, four sisters, two daughters, aunts, mother-in-law), I am often drawn to focus on women.

Purpose matters.

I became familiar with the term Ikigai from Santiago Jaramillo, CEO and Co-Founder of Emplify. He was the keynote speaker for NIIC’s 2019 Ideas@Work event. He shared about how he discovered his ikigai at the young age of about seven. He lived in a village where drinking water was delivered to homes. He started a business, serving as a distributor of water to neighbors in his village. When they needed water, he delivered it in his little, red wagon. Hint, he’s now a successful, serial entrepreneur.

To celebrate his first earnings, he and his mother went to the store to buy American chocolate—his vision of success. Outside the store, he noticed hungry children begging for food. When he later ate his chocolate, he recalled not feeling satisfied. He kept thinking about the hungry kids. He discussed with his mom using his profits to feed them. So, they went to the store and bought groceries to make sandwiches. They handed sandwiches out to the hungry children.

Santiago found his calling. It was not only to feed hungry children but to find ways to make the world a better place. Throughout his life, Santiago has recognized needs and created solutions. From water distribution and feeding underprivileged children to the company he co-founded and leads, which is focused on employee engagement.

Discover your ikigai.

True success is not found by “leaning back.” Greatness often lies inconveniently out of the way, outside your comfort zone. To live a more fully engaged life, consider your ikigai. It takes serious reflection and self knowledge. To find your ikigai, look for the convergence of:

  • What you love (passion)
  • What the world needs (mission)
  • What you are good at (vocation)
  • What you can get paid for (profession) or volunteer to do.

Live your ikigai.

Understanding your ikigai can lead to fulfillment, happiness, and may even help you live longer. I was fascinated to learn the Japanese culture is known for NOT planning for retirement. People in Japan continue working, pursuing ikigai for their entire lives.

The saying goes, when you love what you do, you won’t “work” a day in your life and will truly live a meaningful life. Cheers to 2020 and a lifetime of ikigai!


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