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Gagan Rai - Ikigai

Time for students to know their Ikigai

August 3, 2020
– Gagan Rai, MD and CEO, NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Ltd.

We all are yearning for meaning in life. Philosophers have spent years looking for a definitive equation of meaning, to provide answers to existential questions that follow the quest of meaning. Today’s teenagers are smarter than the generations before them, and are even more curious to find their purpose and drive all their energy towards achieving it. The journey towards discovering your purpose finds its origins in the Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’.

It is difficult to find a direct translation into English, but Ikigai roughly means ‘the reason to be being or living’. Many Japanese people believe that the culture of Ikigai adds a lot of value to their lives and as a result, has been said to be the reason for the longevity of the population.

COVID-19 and the prevailing uncertainty have forced us to take a lot of tough decisions. Schools and colleges are shut since the beginning of lockdown and students have to make their career choices in these circumstances. This is where Ikigai can help the students in making a decision by answering questions in a structured manner.

Your Ikigai is an intersection of four most important elements:

  • What you love;
  • What you are good at;
  • What you can be paid for; and
  • What the world needs.

These four interests will help you in finding your passion, mission, profession, and vocation. 

Finding what you love

This one is probably the easiest of them all. Use this time at home to discover what you love doing. What task and activity keep you busy for hours, makes you lose track of time, and keeps you craving for more?

It could be coding for a particular project until it is over, solving Math puzzles, designing a poster to perfection, painting portraits for hours at a stretch – any such activity that makes you want to be engrossed forever will be the first element in this journey. There are various interest tests available for people of all ages to assist them in spotting their passion. 

Finding what you are good at

Sometimes you might just know it or at times it takes trial and error to find out what you are good at. If you are young, you can choose personality tests to find your skills and if you are young enough, you can opt for internships. Developing empathy will also help you understand what you are good at. 

We have all noticed that some people are born leaders while some are natural dancers or artists. This has a lot to do with their existing personality traits. Your skills may not be polished enough to help you with an easy way out, but you can identify your natural strengths and weaknesses by knowing your personality type. 

Let us be aware that we can always upskill and upgrade ourselves to learn new things and get better at doing them. If you believe your strength is problem-solving, you can always upskill yourself and learn coding to solve problems in the internet of things. 

Finding what you can be paid for

Coronavirus is expected to bring new challenges in the job market. Employees across the world are losing jobs and facing pay cuts. It becomes imperative to choose a career that will sustain the change, grow in the future and also pays its people handsomely. There are two ways to figure this out – first and foremost is research. Human Resource experts have come up with lists of possible jobs for the future which will help you in setting your universe right. It is extremely important to know that some jobs will go extinct as technology and artificial intelligence might take over it. Interact with the teachers, parents & siblings who are now working to understand the lucrative careers that can be looked at.

Second is getting a professional opinion from a career expert. Resources, time, and money are invested in making sure that professionals give sound, tailor-made opinions to every individual looking for direction. Assess your skills for different career/education options by taking an aptitude test. Earlier assumed to be a privilege to be able to afford such tests, multiple credible aptitude test options are now available for students at affordable prices. This will help you in narrowing down your scope and in finding a job that will reward you financially.

Finding what the world needs

Perhaps the most confusing of them all, Ikigai uniquely adds it in the recipe for meaning. There are plenty of jobs and careers that do not directly serve the people but works on making the systems and processes strong and fair. Society needs financial institutions to allow businesses to expand and grow. These businesses increase employment, promote fair market practices, and flourish while taking every single component of that chain, forward. This is why everyone needs to know what value their work will add to the betterment of their culture and society.

Remember, it is not mandatory to follow only one Ikigai throughout your life. With changing time, your needs change, your skills change, and even your idea of purpose changes. It is okay to want to try finance when you are younger, focus on your children at an older age, and then want to just travel in your retirement. The key is to analyze and understand what makes you happy and follow that instinct.

Also read: Okinawa’s secret: Ikigai — The japanese secret to a long and happy life


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, and opinions of EducationWorld.

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