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Whatever point you’re at in your studies, it’s common to feel confused about what you’ll do after you graduate. Kristian Latosinski explains the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai, which might prove helpful when making important decisions about your future.

‘What will I do once I leave university?’ is a question that almost all students find themselves asking at some point during their education. In an increasingly fast paced and competitive environment, more students than ever find themselves lost, struggling to find a purpose or rewarding career post-graduation.

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Enter Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that has been making waves in the lifestyle community. Some have crowned it the possible heir to Hygge’s throne as lifestyle trend of the moment. It only takes a quick google search to find a shower of articles on the topic posted in the last month. But, Ikigai is so much more than a trend, it’s an outlook that has been used by the Japanese for centuries and is said to lead to a happier, longer (more on that later) and more fulfilling life.

A person’s Ikigai can only be found when they see a spot where their mission, passion, profession, and vocation complement each other.

So, what is Ikigai? The word means something similar to ‘a reason to live’ or ‘the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning’. In Japan, finding this involves a lengthy journey of self-discovery. This is bad news for students, who don’t have much time in university to ‘find themselves’. Fortunately, the path to one’s Ikigai is often condensed in the West into four questions as part of a venn diagram: What do you love? What are you good at? What does the world need? What can you be paid for?

A person’s Ikigai is the sweet spot where the answers to all four questions overlap. If some qualities overlap and others do not, the person may have found a satisfying career but not a truly fulfilling one. A person’s Ikigai can only be found when they see a spot where their mission, passion, profession, and vocation complement each other.

For example, if a person loves reading/writing, is also good at writing, knows they can be paid as a journalist and feels the world needs a raised awareness of mental health, their Ikigai could be writing for the wellbeing column of Epigram – if only it paid! Performing this exercise could be helpful for students who have found themselves stressed in the search for a career that matches them.

Ikigai is not simply a stress busting, career searching tool, however. People from the island of Okinawa, Japan, have the highest life expectancy in the world, with many elders living over the age of 100. And while a great diet is partially the reason for their lengthy lives, Okinawans give much credit to having an Ikigai or purpose. The elders of this island take pride in doing the things they love well past the age of 100, such as fishing or gardening. So, could having an Ikigai also be a kind of elixir of life? The benefits seem endless.

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It’s important to note that finding your Ikigai won’t necessarily lead you to be featured on the Forbes 100 list, but it might make you a damn lot happier than if you were. It’s also a concept that dares people to dream and in the internet age, it’s easier than ever to make a business out of doing something you love.

So, what are you waiting for? Why not take a seat for ten minutes, draw four circles and write. You may find that you’ve discovered your calling quicker than you thought. I should know. I’ve done it and it may be the very reason that I’m writing this article.


Will you give Ikigai a go when thinking about your plans after university? Comment below or get in touch!

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