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Ikigai: Your Four-fold Path to the Right Career

Passion, profession, mission, cocation. These are four inter-connected words or concepts that will lead to a path of career fulfillment. All combined, these concepts produce what the Japanese refer to as “ikigai”, which colloquially means what makes a person get up in the morning. To better understand how to apply ikigai, read the dissection of the principles below:

Mission and Vocation: What the World Needs

Most people live life the usual way by going to school, finding a job after graduation, build a career, some get married and have children, retire at a certain age, and reach life’s eventual conclusion. Years pass without ever giving a thought about one’s life mission or vocation. It is not uncommon to feel a sense of need for purpose at a certain in life. Some call this a midlife crisis, while others wonder about it early in life and believe that the answer lies in the occupation that they do since work consumes most of their daily lives. One way to determine a person’s life mission or vocation is to look at what the world needs.

Many times, people and systems adapt to what the environment or the world requires. People needed clothes to protect them from the elements, a requirement that was later met by manufacturers of textile and clothing. When human society shifted from the agricultural era to the industrial age, most people no longer hunted animals, foraged for edible plants, or engaged in farming for food. This gave rise to the modern food production and distribution system which includes industrialized farms, food processing plants, supermarkets, restaurants, and convenience stores.

Another example good example is when globalization opened up borders and allowed many nations to trade more goods. With increased global trade, demand and supply became huge and eventually gave birth to many support industries, including local and international order-taking call centers. As part of the large business process outsourcing or BPO industry, these centers enabled sellers from one country to offer their products across the seas. Through a phone call, an order can be placed and processed, then the center arranges for the product to be shipped by air or sea to the customer. This is also replicated in many local settings across the U.S. where products are ordered from one state and brought to another state where the customer lives. The need for people and systems to handle phoned-in orders and requests led to the creation of the BPO industry. Again, a need creates opportunity, and in that opportunity, an individual or a company can find its mission and vocation.

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Passion and Profession: What You Are Good At

It is also amazing when a need intersects with a person or a group’s expertise. This is best illustrated by Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ passion for computers and coding. He was actually enrolled at Harvard University with the goal of eventually getting a law degree. Instead of reading law books, he actually spent more time at a laboratory with a friend who later became a co-founder of Microsoft. Gates dropped out and worked on computer projects until he founded his own company and the rest is history.

It has been proven many times that when a person knows what he is good at, he can apply that knowledge or skill and create value. There are people who, instead of pursuing money, power, or fame had found true joy and fulfillment in doing what they were passionate about. They turned their passion into a profession, and because of that, they have daily motivation to do their jobs because they simply enjoy it. As the oft-quoted advice says: “Do something you love and you will never have to work a single day in your life.”

Profession and Vocation: What You Can Be Paid For

If one recognizes a need and knows what he or she is good at, the next step is to see if one can actually be paid for that particular knowledge, skill, or expertise. In humor, some say that unique salesmen are so good that they can sell ice to Eskimos. Some people can be really that excellent and effective at what they do. However, in today’s economy, it is also advisable to understand how principles of demand and supply affect salaries and job opportunities, as well as prospects for business.

For instance, Silicon Valley in the California had a huge demand for mathematicians and computer engineers. It so happened that India had a good supply of those experts who, in their own country, had relatively fewer opportunities and lower prospects for high salaries. The tech professionals from India who work in Silicon Valley also had facility in the English language and were comfortable in Western culture. Knowing their professional and vocational expertise, plus their linguistic and cultural adaptability, they were able to tap into a gold mine of opportunities in Silicon Valley because they understood what they can be paid for.

Passion and Mission: What You Love

Lastly, when passion and mission meet, it is often because they intersect at the job, profession, business, or hobby that a person loves. This is very evident in men and women of the cloth. Most clergymen and women have a deep sense of connection with humanity which they also tie to their spiritual pursuits. For them, their love for God translates into a passion to help people and their mission of bringing others closer to God.

Intersection is Ikigai, Ikigai is Your Life Purpose

The intersection of Passion, Profession, Mission, and Vocation is a person’s Ikigai, or life direction. In that center, he or she will find purpose and happiness. The great thing about Ikigai is that anybody can find it, with introspection, honesty, and determination. Knowing one’s Ikigai, however, is not enough. It is only the starting position of a lifetime’s journey to love and be loved, to find meaning, to be of help to others, and to leave a legacy to those whom we have to leave behind.

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