What’s the perfect job for me? 

Julie Batty, November 2018

Ikigai. That’s what we’re after.

Iki-what?

Ikigai.

It’s a Japanese concept meaning ‘a reason for being’.

It shows the sweet spot for your life being where what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for meet. It’s a map to the perfect career for each of us.

Here’s the diagram.  If you combine any two of the ‘circles’ you get a starting point, any three and you’re well on your way, but there’s still something missing. When all four are engaged, you have a truly fulfilling career.

It’s a constantly fascinating conundrum, isn’t it?

Most people unthinkingly focus on needing money – or more money – and I guess that’s unsurprising.  Schools and parents are usually keen to point you in the direction of paying the rent as your main motivation.  But that can be a very narrow path to walk, and is seldom the road to a truly authentic life.

We need more than a wage to be happy.

The behavioural scientist Daniel Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us shows that money is not much of a driver as long as we have enough to get by.  His research found that

Autonomy – our desire to be self-directed,

Mastery – our urge to get better at doing what we do and

Purpose – our longing to do something meaningful

are far more important to our happiness and satisfaction.  His fascinating book is translated into this entertaining 10 minute animation.

It’s not necessarily about being the best.

So what do you do if you love say, drawing cartoons BUT you’re not very good at it. And no-one wants to pay you for it.  Your family are warning you that the world is full of untalented artists and you should get a proper job. But still you think the world might need some fun…

Well, if you’re Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons (and multi-millionaire), you keep at it, getting better at drawing. You seek out other people who love what you do. And you discover that if you add animation to your skills, tv producers suddenly become interested.

Love will find a way…

Groening worked on self-belief, determination, resilience, perseverance, team-working, networking and a host of other skills but the driver of it all was his love of drawing.  That passion kept him doing the thing he loved.  Drawing. It overcame his lack of natural talent, persuaded Fox that they needed to make The Simpsons and eventually even brought him untold riches.

You don’t need to know what your passion is.

Not all of us are born with that all-consuming passion for something, but the good news is that anywhere on the Ikigai model is a place to start.

Responding to the needs of the world.

In the 1940s a young woman responded to an advert calling for volunteers to help Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps.  ‘I think it was something about repaying a debt’, she said ‘if the Nazis had succeeded in invading England, we would have been the victims.’

She sat for many hours with the starved and traumatized inmates of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

She discovered they needed most desperately was just someone to listen. Someone to bear witness to what had happened to them.

Her experience led her to train in psychotherapy in order to better help disturbed and traumatized people.  She became a spokeswoman for refugees, especially children, and later set up two foundations (Freedom from Torture and The Helen Bamber Foundation) that cared for victims of torture, tending to both physical and psychological healing.

The Foundations offered many treatments but she said the most important was still ‘listening, bearing witness…the first gift you can give somebody who is a survivor.’

This woman, Helen Bamber, helped thousands of people in a long life. She made her living, she was passionately devoted to what she did, and she became incredibly skilled.  But what took her to her extraordinary career was a response to what the world needed. The love, the skill and the money came after.

We’re here to help

At EWO we’re devoted to helping you find the keys to a more fulfilling career. It’s not usually the money.  It’s not even the skills on your cv.

Our own process focusses on your Six Signature Strengths, but like in the Ikigai model, most often your way forward involves a combination of what you’re naturally good at, what you care about, what really matters to you and what makes your heart sing.

Martin Luther King, Jr’s mentor Howard Thurman said:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

Although, of course, it may be that, like Helen Bamber, what the world needs is exactly what makes you come alive.  In which case, ask what the world needs, and then go do it.