This is one of many big questions all students have before deciding on a university course.
You struggle to choose between what you feel is your interests and what you hear and read as careers that are relevant for the future.
There are no straight answers but lucky for you the Japanese have figured this out through an ancient concept known as IKIGAI.
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What is IKIGAI?
IKIGAI roughly translates to ‘’reason for being’’ which is a life principle to achieve happiness and purpose.
From a career perspective, the concept of IKIGAI proposes that the most fulfilling career is when ‘’What You Love to Do’’ is also ‘’What You Are Good At’’ and this intersects with something ‘’The World Needs’’ and which ‘’People Will Pay You For’’ the product or service that you provide.
It is a practical concept as it infers that what sustains your passion should also be something others see as valuable with positive impact to society.
So don’t see your choice as a trade-off between choosing your interest and choosing what the future needs.
Instead you should align your interests and strengths with vocations that requires these qualities.
This is because the validation of success given by people who see your work as valuable will only fuel your strength and passion even more.
How Do I Use IKIGAI to Choose?
There are actions you can take when asking yourself about the 4 ingredients that make up IKIGAI.
1. What Do I Love to Do?
We all have many interests at many points in our lives. Take your time and list all the interests you have.
It can be anything, even playing video games!
Interests normally have these qualities:
- Activities you gravitate to when you have free time
- Things you do even when no one told you to do it
- You think and talk about them very often
- You spend a lot of time researching about the topics
2. What Am I Good At?
As humans we are curious and have many interests at different points of our lives.
But to offer real value to society and make a living from your interests, you have to be good at what you do.
Even gamers need to undergo intensive training in order to be world champions.
The next step is to go through your interest list and identify what you could be good at or enjoy so much that it comes naturally to you.
The clues to your strengths normally come in the form of praises and remarks from people about certain natural abilities you have.
It could be you drawing very well, coding, playing basketball, debating, cooking or how well you do your make-up.
It can also be how easy it is for you to talk to people and make them feel comfortable, having good taste in fashion, people like to make you the leader, you love to analyse and research topics that intrigue you, or that you love to figure out how things work.
3. What Does the World Need That Is Aligned With My Interests and Strengths?
This is the part where you get to be practical but also think big!
Tie your interests and strengths with actual careers or things you can do that will add value.
It could be a product or service that doesn’t exist yet but could solve a pain point.
In learning what the world needs, you have to also understand the context of the country and economy you are in.
The reality is that in some countries certain opportunities related to your interests could be limited compared with other countries.
Nevertheless, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your interests and instead think of the scope of your opportunities on a global scale.
As long as you develop your knowledge and skills to a high standard, you can find opportunities abroad as well.
4. Is This a Path That People Value and Will Pay For?
Being paid for something you offer as a product or service is one of the clearest validation of value.
Even social work can be paid for or sponsored by supporters if the cause is seen to be valued by society.
Seek evidence from reputable sources such as Talentcorp’s Critical Occupation List and Jobstreet’s Salary Report.
If it’s a new product or service that you intend to launch, perform surveys to get real and honest feedback.
Monetary success should not be the goal but the fuel that motivates your interests and strengths.
So What Now? I’m Still Not Sure
Warning: You won’t figure out immediately your life purpose or have an epiphany from reading one article.
But you now have a systematic approach and framework to use to better understand yourself. Keep evaluating your IKIGAI even after graduation.
Sometimes the profession or calling that matches you perfectly comes with experience and a little luck.
IKIGAI can guide you to recognise the right opportunities that come your way.
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