Ikigai meaning

January 29, 2024 •

4 min reading

Ikigai meaning: A path to job satisfaction

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Ikigai is on the path to becoming a buzzword for people seeking a deeper understanding of what motivates them. But when truly understood, Ikigai can be a very useful tool when considering career changes.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese term that stems from the verb Ikiru = to live and the suffix gai = fruitful, worth doing.

The Ikigai symbol

In katakana: いきがい
In kanji : 生き甲斐

The pronunciation of Ikigai

  • Ikigai’s pronounciation in English phonetics: Ick-ee-guy
  • Ikigai’s pronounciation in French phonetics: i-ki-ga-i
  • Ikigai’s pronounciation in international phonetic alphabet: i kiˈgaɪ

What is Ikigai’s meaning

Ikigai is a motivating force that gives you a sense of purpose.

It can also describe your mental state when you live a meaningful life

It is found at the intersection of what you are passionate about, what you are good at, what you want to contribute to society and how you see the world.


Ikigai chart

An ikigai chart is made of intersecting shapes, each representing an aspect of your life: passion, skills, contribution and world view. Each intersection provides some meaning and satisfaction but might not be completely fulfilling. The middle of the chart is where you will find your ikigai.



Ikigai examples

In order to get you started on your ikigai journey, here are a few examples of ikigai elements for various career profiles.

Construction worker

  • Passion: Being outside, building new things
  • Skills: Operating complex machinery
  • Contribution: Offering better living conditions for families
  • World view: Comfortable housing is necessary for families to flourish

Child book illustrator

  • Passion: Developing and using my artistic skills
  • Skills: Drawing colorful pictures
  • Contribution: Helping children have fun while learning
  • World view: Happy kids will create a better world

Host of a cooking program

  • Passion: cooking for family and friends
  • Skills: Inventing tasty recipes with healthy ingredients
  • Contribution: Helping people enjoy healthy habits
  • World view: Healthier eating with lead to happier and longer lives

Whether you consider a career change at 30, 40 or 50 starting building your ikigai can be a very helpful step in identifying possible career orientations. It can also uncover job options that are off the beaten path, but will provide you a fulfilling professional future.

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Ikigai quotes

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do."

Steve Jobs

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henri Thoreau

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

Albert Camus

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Marcel Proust

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

Robert Byrne

Ikigai Test

With half of the American population identifying food as one of their passions, we designed a test that could help foodies, entrepreneurs and those passionate about hospitality find their ikigai.

Take the Ikigai Test for foodies

Written by

Director, Business Development at EHL

Learn how to run a Food & Beverage business in 5 months

This five-month intense program of 25 masterclasses will help you shape your business project thanks to management modules and the tools EHL developed for entrepreneurs. It will also immerse you in culinary operations, from fine-dining cuisine to freshly prepared takeaway food, catering, oenology and R&D.