What was your reason for getting up this morning?
Often, we pass through life unclear of the meaning, motivation, or values behind what we do and how we live.
And yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Japanese practice of ikigai helps you find your reason for living, shaping how you live now and in the future. Unique to each of us, it represents our attention to the present and the point at which our mission, vocation, and professional lives meet (Mitsuhashi, 2018; García & Miralles, 2018).
The worksheets and templates in this article help you reflect on what is essential and how you can find better ways to meet your personal ikigai.
Before you continue, you might like to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free. These creative, science-based exercises will help you learn more about your values, motivations, and goals and will give you the tools to inspire a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
6 Best Worksheets & Templates to Find Your Ikigai
4 Exercises for Your Coaching Sessions
20 Questions to Ask Your Clients
A Take-Home Message
6 Best Worksheets & Templates to Find Your Ikigai
Ikigai is both an idea and a way of life. This Japanese approach to living meaningfully is ultimately simple, yet its effects are far reaching. While implicitly learned rather than taught in Japan, ikigai is present in our devotion to what we do and enjoy.
And there is no one-size-fits-all. Instead, we must each search for our individual path to joy, curiosity, and passion (Mitsuhashi, 2018).
Identifying your ikigai takes persistence and requires ongoing refinement, but the following templates can help you reflect on your actions, behavior, and how you interact with the world.
Finding Your Ikigai
Ikigai corresponds with your sense of purpose and your reason for being.
One standard Western approach for searching for and representing such deeply held self-knowledge involves completing a diagram with four headings (García & Miralles, 2018):
What you love
What you are good at
What the world needs
What you can be paid for
The Finding Your Ikigai tool is an easy-to-use exercise to help clients find purpose and meaning in their lives by engaging in the Japanese practice of ikigai.
This tool takes approximately 30-60 minutes to administer and is accompanied by the following diagram:
Here is a list of the five steps that clients work through to complete the four headings:
Understand what ikigai means
Filling in your ikigai chart
Find overlapping responses
Find the missing circle(s) of your ikigai
Address the missing circle(s)
Further on in this article, we provide a sample of 20 prompts that can be used to help clients fill in the four circles.
You can access the full-length version of this tool, as well as its accompanying diagrams, with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit©.
You do not need to change jobs to get closer to your ikigai (Mitsuhashi, 2018).
Instead, it is possible to craft your current role, making marginal changes to what and how it is performed, into one that benefits others and enables you to experience a sense of joy in what you do.
But first, it is essential to understand how you spend your time.
Use this Job Crafting worksheet to keep a log of your activities on a typical day.
It can be surprising to find out how you spend your time, and possibly a little disappointing.
Are you spending time making connections with others or being passionate about what you are doing? Or are you caught in a mundane unproductive task?
Can you change how much time you spend on tasks that are not rewarding or vary them to be more engaging and fulfilling?
Identify what you could do to spend more time on activities that appeal to you or craft others (less intrinsically interesting) to make you feel happier, motivated, and interested.
The aim of job crafting is that, through ongoing experimentation, you can find more creativity and enjoyment in what you are doing and strengthen your connections with others (Mitsuhashi, 2018).
Minor changes made over time can have a significant impact on your sense of fulfillment while moving you toward your ikigai.
Strengthening Ikigai in the Workplace
While relevant to all aspects of our lives, ikigai is of particular value in the workplace.
We spend much of our lives at work; it often leaves us wondering if it is possible to make that time more meaningful and enjoyable (Brueck, 2020).
Use the Strengthening Ikigai in the Workplace tool to consider the answers to the following questions:
What are you good at?
What do you love to do?
What does the world need?
What do you (the organization) need for the market?
For ikigai to be successful, the needs, values, and passion of the organization, employees, and customers must be in equilibrium.
Reaching such a state and making it sustainable is challenging and only possible through reflection and asking the right questions.
Identifying Your Ikigai
A common misconception of ikigai is that it only relates to your career and how you earn a living (Mitsuhashi, 2018). And while this application is helpful, care must be taken that the four overlapping circles we often use to understand the term are not limiting.
Not that this representation is inherently wrong, but it constrains the idea of ikigai. To the Japanese, while ikigai can relate to their work, it could just as easily be a pastime such as fishing, meeting with friends, or enjoying a glass of wine (Mitsuhashi, 2018).
Mitsuhashi describes finding your ikigai as embarking on an unknown adventure that takes us beyond choosing a vocation and looks at all aspects of our living.
Finding your ikigai is about recognizing value and happiness in individual moments and across the big journey of life. You must not limit yourself to the present, but search your past for clues. Your ikigai was most likely apparent from your early school years onward and recoverable by sifting through your memories (Mitsuhashi, 2018).
Reflect on the questions in the Identifying Your Ikigai worksheet before completing each box provided.
Review the answers, and use them to reflect on their meaning regarding your ikigai.
Can you see common themes and pastimes that were important to you?
Are the patterns from your past reflected in your present?
A Reflection on Opposites
Use the Reflection on Opposites worksheet to understand where your actions are focused.
Do most of your activities focus on the present or the future?
Do your hobbies, pastimes, and other actions exist only for you, or do you share them more widely?
Do you connect with the world mostly through giving or receiving? Can you improve the balance?
Do you approach life with a fluid or a fixed mindset?
Is your thinking only logical, or do you engage with your feelings?
Do you only help people you do not know, or do you also help those close to you?
Are you actively pursuing your goals or waiting for them to happen?
Could you focus your life more outwardly and adopt a change mindset while embracing your emotions?
Focus on the Little Things
One of the goals and pillars upon which ikigai stands is recognizing and experiencing joy in little things (Mogi, 2018).
Central to this is the search for mindfulness (feeling present) and curiosity in all that we do.
Whether working on a spreadsheet or enjoying a cup of tea, ikigai and a sense of flow are present (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Mogi, 2018).
You will soon realize that nothing is mundane and that we can find pleasure in the simplest of things.
Use the Focus on the Little Things worksheet to explore some seemingly innocuous activities we perform daily and how they can move closer to ikigai so you feel more present and engaged.
Being more in the moment can be helped by focusing on the sensory aspects of the experience. Dwelling on touch, taste, smell, color, and sound can ground you and release you to the joy of the moment.
4 Exercises for Your Coaching Sessions
Ikigai is as much about the journey as the destination.
Ikigai requires action rather than passivity and engagement rather than maintaining distance.
Use your coaching sessions with the client to work through the following exercises or set them as homework for discussion in the next session.
Getting ready for ikigai
Tim Tamashiro (2019) points out that the individual must become ready for ikigai.
To set the scene for the changes to come, spend some time considering the following (Tamashiro, 2019):
Remember that you are not your job; you are what you do.
Take pleasure seriously.
Find things you enjoy. Doing them will lead you to search out others.
What if I don’t know my ikigai?
Even after completing the earlier ikigai worksheets, a client may still feel unsure of their ikigai. And it’s no surprise. We typically pass through our lives blindly performing actions without giving a thought to value and meaning.
Discuss the following actions with the client, encouraging them to try each one:
Do kind things for other people.
Shift your perspective to thinking about others more than yourself.
Practice mindfulness and meditation.
Even a small investment in time and effort can have positive rewards.
Spend more time with family and friends.
Cultivating and strengthening relationships is crucial to happiness and wellbeing.
Identify and set goals.
Setting and working toward clear goals can boost motivation.
Review the outcome of each at a later session.
What do other people expect of you?
It is not easy to separate other people’s feelings from our own. This can be especially true for longer term influences such as those from our parents or siblings.
Ask the client to write what they believe significant others expect from them. Then discuss these alongside their own needs, hopes, and desires.
The client must remember that only they choose the value and meaning in their lives. Their worth is personal and subjective.
Review the enemies of ikigai
It is vital in coaching that you make the client aware that there are several enemies to finding and achieving ikigai (Tamashiro, 2019).
Working through the following fears using the Review the Enemies of Ikigai worksheet can help the client become more aware of each one’s negative impact.
Recognize that the fears are often unfounded or can be managed, and include:
Fear of failing
Fear of success
Fear of what others will think
Fear of discomfort
The act of naming, writing down, and sharing fears with others can be transformational.
Ask the client to keep the completed sheet and review it in a later session to see how much they have learned to control the fear.
20 Questions to Ask Your Clients
Finding your ikigai is not easy. It takes time and effort.
The following questions provide useful prompts for answering the four criteria (what I enjoy doing, what I am good at, what the world needs, and what I can get paid for):
Question 1: What do you love?
What do you never get bored with?
When do you feel happiest?
What were you doing when you last lost track of time?
In the past, what has left you feeling energized?
What would you continue to do even if you did not get paid?
Question 2: What are you good at?
What do people approach you for help with?
What skills or talents come naturally to you?
What do you excel at even when you are not trying?
What parts of your current job come to you easily?
In what activity do you excel in your social circle, workplace, or community?
Question 3: What can you get paid for?
What would you be doing if you were not in your current job?
Can you make a good living doing this work in the long term?
What does the competition look like? Can you spot a niche?
Which jobs, positions, or tasks spark your interest?
Are you already making a good living in your line of work?
Question 4: What does the world need?
What can you do or offer that would bring meaning to others?
What problems in your society would you like to help solve?
Will your work still be relevant a decade from now?
What is the world lacking?
How could you be more involved in your community?
Look for patterns that may form in your answers and consider what is helpful or unhelpful for your ikigai.
A more complete list of questions is available in our Finding Your Ikigai exercise as described above.
There are several other tools available to help your client reconsider their relationship with their career and mindfulness techniques that will help them focus on the little things.
Exploring Character Strengths – If you are thinking about changing roles, it is worth trying out this strength-spotting exercise first.
Use the simplistic yet profound Nature Play worksheet to appreciate nature’s amazing healing powers. The worksheet is particularly valuable when combined with mindfulness.
Breath Awareness guides you in becoming aware of your breathing and can be an incredibly positive way of becoming more present in each moment and closer to ikigai.
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others discover meaning, this collection contains 17 validated meaning tools for practitioners. Use them to help others choose directions for their lives in alignment with what is truly important to them.
In addition to these handy tools, you will find the following articles inspiring:
35 Ikigai Quotes That Will Inspire You and Make You Reflect
5 Best Ikigai Books for Living a Meaningful Life [+ Summaries]
Finding Your Ikigai: 8 Questionnaires and Tests
A Take-Home Message
The Japanese typically lead long and healthy lives, possibly helped by their outlook, attitude, and ikigai (García & Miralles, 2018).
Ikigai encourages the individual to spend time and energy focusing on their overall life purpose while experiencing joy living in the moment (Mitsuhashi, 2018). One of its key ingredients is curiosity. When engaging in any activity, we must be passionate and interested in every detail.
Practicing ikigai, discovering happiness in life, and finding our purpose are within reach of us all. Ikigai provides a compass for our decision making, giving confidence and certainty and increasing the chance of looking back on a life full of meaning.
While challenging to define, its benefits, especially when combined with positive psychology, can provide a practical strategy for achieving physical and psychological wellbeing (Mori et al., 2017).
Try out some worksheets and templates in this article to improve your own or your client’s life by giving it increased meaning.
Ikigai has much to offer our modern way of living, individually, organizationally, and even globally. If adopted more widely, it may have the potential to change behaviors, inspire, energize, and address the worldwide challenges we face now and in the future.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.
Brueck, F. (2020). Ikigai: For leaders and organisations: The way to individual and collective purpose and meaning [Kindle DX version].
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). The contribution of flow to positive psychology. In J. E. Gillham (Ed.), Laws of life symposia series. The science of optimism and hope: Research essays in honor of Martin E. P. Seligman (pp. 387–395). Templeton Foundation Press.
García, H., & Miralles, F. (2018). Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Thorndike Press Large Print.
Mitsuhashi, Y. (2018). Ikigai: Giving every day meaning and joy. Kyle Books.
Mogi, K. (2018). The little book of ikigai: The secret Japanese way to live a happy and long life. Quercus.
Mori, K., Kaiho, Y., Tomata, Y., Narita, M., Tanji, F., Sugiyama, K., … Tsuji, I. (2017). Sense of life worth living (ikigai) and incident functional disability in elderly Japanese: The Tsurugaya Project. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 95, 62–67.
Tamashiro, T. (2019). How to ikigai: Lessons for finding happiness and living your life’s purpose. Wisdom Tree.