The Philosophy of ikigai

Blossom Incense Stand

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.

Sumac Candles

There are four master circles: What you love; what the world needs; what you are good at and 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. 

1) At the intersection of what you love and what you are good at is your passion.
2) At the intersection of what you love and what the world needs is your mission.
3) At the intersection of what you are good at and what the world needs is your vocation.
4) 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.

Ikigai Diagram

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

Japanese Sumac Candles

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. 

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

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