The Japanese path to a more meaningful life…

IKIGAI (生き甲斐 ee-kee-gahy) is the Japanese concept of a sense of purpose, a reason for living — something you discover after a long and intense search for why you are here on earth.  We’ve been asking ourselves that question for centuries — why am I here and what is my purpose?  Now we have a name for our search — Ikigai — and a path to discover our answer.

There are four master circles:  What you love.  What the world needs.  What you are good at.  What you are paid for.

Where all four circles intersect in the middle is your ikigai, where you will find your life’s true purpose.  But this will take time, and there is much work to do to get there.  It is deep inside you.  In the meantime, you need to pay attention to the four places where pairs of these important categories intersect.

  • At the intersection of what you love and what you are good at is your PASSION.

  • At the intersection of what you love and what the world needs is your MISSION.

  • At the intersection of what you are good at and what the world needs is your VOCATION.

  • At the intersection of what you are good at and what you can be paid for is your PROFESSION.

Fill out your circles and see where your path lies.  Take your time, this is a process, and you want to think it through.

what you love

This is what brings you the most joy.  It could be reading by the fireplace on a rainy day.  Or walking your dog.  Or travelling with a loved one or spending simple time with family.  When are you happiest?  What are you happiest doing?

With Obakki as an example — our founder, Treana Peake, has always found joy in philanthropic work.  She set out to surround herself with like-minded people here at Obakki and now, it is the beating heart of our company.

Handmade by a family-run business in Ishikawa, Japan, who have been creating traditional Japanese candles — also known as ‘wa-rousoku’ — in the same way since 1892.  The clean-burning candles are created in unique shapes inspired by the plants that grow in the region where they are made — honouring the nature that surrounds us and sustains us.

Inspired by the slow movements of fog in Osaka, these special glass pieces are created by master artisan Takeshi Tsujino to encourage new relationships between the user and their environment, with the belief that each item will become an extension of the user’s own expression.

what you are good at

This is anything you excel at for any reason.  Hobbies, sports, professions — anything you do well.  Don’t be discouraged if you are young and haven’t figured this out yet.

Common wisdom holds that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at anything to be good at it — even something you may show a natural affinity for.  At Obakki, we have all gone through several reiterations in our lives before reaching the equilibrium of ikigai and understanding how to get there.

We travel many different paths in our lifetimes.  Don’t give up.  Just keep going and doing what you love, and you will progress along your path.

Produced in one of the oldest brass foundries in Japan, the complex and lengthy process to create each incense stand has remained virtually unchanged for the past 400 years.

what the world needs

The world here could literally mean the world, in the most immense sense of humanity, or it could represent your own community.  This is where you give back — by calculating how you can contribute to the greater good.  Think about what the world needs.  Is it something big, like a cure for a disease?  Or something smaller, like a community library?  More doctors?  More caregivers?  More farmers?  Somewhere there is an intersection.  Obakki had a big head start here because our founder’s “What You Love” already merged with “What the World Needs”.

This is a big one because it’s about giving back.  Ikigai is not all about the individual.  It’s about the individual and the greater good.  And these things can merge seamlessly and give you not only more joy but a stronger purpose.  The Japanese culture has long valued the spirit of community, which is a large component of a happy life.

Handcrafted by a group of master dyers on Amami Oshima, the largest of southern Japan’s Satsunan islands, each pillow is made start-to-finish in a small, fair trade environment.

what you can be paid for

It’s a harsh reality — most of us need to earn a living.  And sometimes, it doesn’t align with our passion — or our mission.  At least not immediately.

Often, whether you can be paid for what you love to do, or even sometimes whether you can get paid for what you are best at, is not completely under your control.  It depends on the economy, your personal situation, and the values of the culture you live in.  Sometimes, and sometimes for long periods, you cannot have everything intersect.

But if you can discover where your passion, talent and potential benefit to others do intersect, you’ve achieved a balance in ikigai.  The rest will come.

The Kasen family has been hand-crafting their pottery with earth from the hills of Seto, Japan for more than four centuries.  The earth the family uses in their pottery is so pure it can be used directly without any purification.

the sum of our parts

The benefit to others is what distinguishes ikigai from some other philosophies.

For example, it is not aligned with hedonic (in the ancient Greek pursuit of transitory pleasure) but with another ancient Greek sense of a life well lived, leading to the highest and most lasting form of happiness:  eudaimonia.  It’s also aligned with the French raison d’être and the Swedish existensberättigande.  (Try saying that one three times!)

In Japan, it is said that everyone has an ikigai — their particular intersection of passion, talent, and benefit to others.  It is only a matter of finding it.  Your journey will require time, deep self-examination, and plenty of reflection.  But you’ve got this.  And then, just like that — the world is a better place because of you.

Relaxed and grounded is the best way to start the search for your ikigai.  Heighten your senses with calming Japanese incense and mesmerizing Japanese candles as you begin your journey.

CREDITS:  Photos courtesy of Obakki

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Founded in 2005 by designer and humanitarian Treana Peake, OBAKKI is a purpose-led lifestyle brand that is focused on creating a more conscious world through the act of intentional living.  Everything curated by Obakki has been handcrafted and produced in partnership with a global network of world-class artisans — real people making products that bring meaning and connection to your home.