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Mod. 1 Assignment - Understanding your Ikigai

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that has no direct English translation. It’s a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living and is often referred to as something that allows you to have a direction in life and that provides you with a sense of fulfillment.

It is important to distinguish Purpose from Ikigai as the two often get conflated in certain parts of the world. Finding your Purpose can feel like quite a grandiose task, but Ikigai is actually about the little things. Ikigai consists of two words: Iki, referring to ‘life’, and Gai, referring to ‘value or worth’. In the English language the word ‘life’ is given a lot of weight which makes it easy to confuse Ikigai as something that is grand too. However, in the Japanese language there are two words that describe ‘life’: Jinsei, which means lifetime, and seikatsu, which means everyday life. Ikigai aligns itself more closely with seikatsu and is more about finding small joys as the sum of small joys in everyday life results in a more fulfilling life as a whole.

In 1966 psychiatrist Mieko Kamiya pointed out that Ikigai is also something that allows you to look forward to the future even if you’re unhappy right now.

Why is Ikigai important?

Ikigai helps people be more mindful of their surroundings and helps create beneficial habits to live a more fulfilling life. In Japanese communities like those on the southern island of Japan, Okinawa, Ikigai has been linked with longevity and resilience. Additionally, studies have shown that when people feel that they have a sense of direction in life they are happier and less likely to burnout.

Five steps to find your Ikigai:

There are multiple methods and frameworks that help you find your Ikigai. It’s important to understand that your Ikigai will change over time - as you change and as your life circumstances change, your Ikigai may shift too. Ikigai is a journey of discovery and, as you discover new parts of yourself, so will you discover new parts that give you Ikigai.

The framework we use revolves around understanding Ikigai as a concept with both personal and social dimensions captured by the well-known Ikigai diagram. This diagram includes overlapping spheres covering:

  • What you love

  • What you are good at

  • What the world needs

  • What you can get paid for

As this diagram shows, Ikigai is what you find at the intersection of the four major spheres of interest. Below, each sphere is explained along with exercises to help you reflect and fill in each sphere based on your own experience, self-knowledge and understanding of the world.

I recommend that you create one place (notebook, tablet, document on laptop) to collate your findings about your Ikigai. Throughout the handout we will refer to these notes as your Ikigai notes.



This sphere is about understanding which activities, experiences and/or connections bring you the most joy and make you feel most alive and fulfilled. Exercise: Reflect on what you love doing by answering questions about 2-3 scenarios and noting down your findings in your Ikigai notes.

Please reflect and take notes on 2-3 scenarios by answering the following questions:

In the last 2-3 years:

List 2-4 of your happiest moments at work:

  1. Directing FOH for As One in Denver.

  2. Guiding Davóne’s career to win the Musical America Award for Vocalist of The Year.

  3. Connecting with members at Equinox on a personal and professional level.

  4. Collaborating with Stephanie Sokol on planning and executing a wedding.

Choose the one that feels the most true

Directing FOH for As One.

What happened?

I convinced the General Director that we needed to invest in our Audience Experience if the opera was going to be a success.

How did I behave?

I created a simple plan, bought supplies, made arrangements, and executed the plan with the rest of my team.

How did it make me feel?

Validated, meaningful, and proud.

What did I learn about myself, especially regarding Ikigai’s ‘what I love’?

I love creating spaces for people to engage, immerse, and enjoy themselves in an experience.

List 2-4 of your proudest moments at work

  1. Recognizing my company's new COO when he snuck into my restaurant for a meal, I provided incredible service and informed management of his presence so they could greet him properly.

  2. Receiving a 55% tip on an $800 check.

  3. Being offered management positions at two different companies at the same time.

  4. Directing FOH (Front of House) Operations for As One in Denver.

Choose the one that feels the most true

Directing FOH Operations for As One in Denver.

What happened?

I was proud that I was able to follow through on my vision for the space and the experience I wanted our audience to have.

How did I behave?

I connected food truck vendors, LGBTQ+ resource centers, opera audiences, young people, and our board of directors that investing in this experience was worthwhile.

How did it make me feel?

It validated what I knew to be true, which is that people want to have a great experience. If you give them one, they will show up over and over again.

What did I learn about myself, especially regarding Ikigai’s ‘what I love’?

I learned that I love being able to connect my love of people, food, and musical experiences together under one roof.



This sphere includes anything you are particularly good at: any skills you’ve learned, talents you have, hobbies you pursued etc. Note down any capabilities and talents here, whether you or not are passionate about them, whether you can get paid for them or whether the world needs it.

Sometimes it can be hard to identify what you are good at and therefore we have included an exercise below to help you discover this.

Exercise: Find your strengths in other people’s words by asking others to write your bio and evaluate the common threads.

Email/ask 2-3 people you have worked with - and know and trust - to write your bio. By bio we mean that bit at the top of LinkedIn, your portfolio and/or your CV where you have a paragraph to write your elevator pitch. Ask these 2-3 people to write it as if they were you. It’s a creative exercise which they will hopefully have fun with :-)

Ask them to answer these questions as if they are you:

  • What am I good at?

  • What makes me stand out?

  • What am I passionate about?

  • Why would you hire me?

Evaluate these 2-3 bios. What are the common themes?

  1. I love people

  2. I don’t shy away from difficult situations

  3. I am a hard worker

  4. I am deeply committed to my work

  5. I am able to handle a variety of responsibilities across departments

Combine the 2-3 bios into one bio describing your strengths in your Ikigai notes

  1. A holistic approach to project management

  2. The ability to forge deep alliances between artists and institutions

  3. Understands the moving parts of managing production schedules and budgeting

  4. Makes the best out of challenges and personalities

  5. Keeps the desired outcome at the center of decision making and planning

  6. A deep level of care for the work and the people and team doing the work



This dimension of Ikigai is about the economic market and encompasses anything and everything that someone else is willing to pay you for. Below you will find an exercise to help you explore this dimension.

Exercise: Using other people’s trajectory as inspiration for your own. Take some time (about 15-30 minutes) and find a quiet moment. Answer the questions below, taking your Ikigai notes.

What do my friends who I admire earn money for?

Floral Designer; Singer; Stage Director; Interior Designer

What was their trajectory?

They all worked their asses off to get degrees, experience and build relationships that would allow them to move up in their respective careers and hustled their asses off.

Who inspires you? Why?

Serena Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Danny Meyer, Alexis Ohanian, Whoopi Goldberg, Beyoncé, David DiChiera, Kevin Smith - MN Opera, Scott Galloway, Laura Lee Everett, Baron Toumajan.

What was their trajectory?

They all forged their own paths by hustling their asses off and defying the expectations and limitations of everyone around them.

What would you be doing if you’re not in your current job/situation?

Working in Fine Dining or some other form of hospitality.

What are 3 things you could get money for?

  • Service

  • Therapy/Coaching

  • Executive Assistant



This dimension is about what surrounds you and doing good for those around you (be it people, environment etc.). The ‘world’ could mean humanity or the environment as a whole; it can be a small community you are a part of or in touch with, your family, best friends or anything in between.

Exercise: Reflecting on our impact by identifying a need. Take some time (about 15 minutes) and find a quiet moment. Answer the questions below, taking your Ikigai notes.

What are 3 things the world needs from creativity?

To provide shared community, meaning, and purpose.

What does your community need (local/work/networks)?

  • Mental health support.

  • Food

  • Encouragement

  • Understanding

  • Perspective

How can creativity help?

My mantra lately is: WE CAN DO BOTH! By exploring what combining mental health and providing food looks like, we could unlock new understandings about human nature. The same can be applied to an exploration of how encouragement could lead to greater understanding, etc.

What makes you annoyed or frustrated?

  • Small-mindedness and following the herd

  • Lack of intention

  • Cowardice

How can creativity help?

  • Create meaning, purpose, and resolve.

  • Provide examples and a framework for new models of leadership.

What are 3 things the world needs?

  • Better mental health tools and resources.

  • More hugs and non-sexual physical touch.

  • Space for more openness and support.



You may find your Ikigai by evaluating your notes on all the different spheres and examining the red thread between these four spheres. Since your Ikigai is not something that is set in stone, it can be helpful to review your Ikigai every half year, year or every 2-3 years depending on what stage of life you are in.

Exercise: Discovering Ikigai through evaluation. Fill out the following canvas:

I am good at:

  1. Service

  2. Project management

  3. Logistics

  4. Crisis Management.

  5. Deep Listening

I love doing:

  1. Designing Spaces

  2. Caring for People

  3. Curating Experiences

I can get paid for:

  1. Hospitality

  2. Therapy

  3. Assistance

  4. Curation

The world needs:

  1. Mental health support.

  2. Food

  3. Encouragement

  4. Understanding

  5. Perspective

My Ikigai is: The Cultural Ambassador

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