This is where the link with the Covid crisis comes in: We need better lives and better work. As many countries are slowly tip-toeing out of the Covid crisis, they must build back. However, going back to normal would be wrong. We must build back better, harnessing opportunities for environmental protection and social justice as we start greasing the economic wheel again. Neither a better life nor better work is directly related to money (though basic financial stability is a prerequisite of a good life as much as a financial reward can be an important token of appreciation at work).
Ikigai offers a roadmap. Let’s dissect its four dimensions and intersecting circles:
1: What the world needs: This is about what people really need, not about what the market values. The Covid crisis has brought those things to the fore: we value health and wellbeing, we value a walk in the park and a just society, we value actual expertise over self-proclaimed experts, and we value time with our loved ones and that smile of a stranger. These are the things the world needs, not economic growth for the sake of it. To be sure: up to a certain level, financial stability is important for our health, happiness and wellbeing. However, beyond that, other things than money make us much happier.
2: What you love: What the world needs overlaps with some of the stuff you love. Do you love activism for a cleaner environment? Do you love caring for others and getting smiles and appreciation in return? Do you love digital work? Science? Music? Organic farming? Enlightening the world through public speaking? Many of these are the things the world actually needs. As an individual, you might be highly passionate about these. And chances are, you are going to be great at some of them. For companies, this is what should be in their mission statement.
3: What you are good at: What is your core competence? What can you do better than others? Whatever it is, you are likely to be very good at some of the stuff you really love, whether it is music or activism or urban gardening. The Covid crisis has thrown us all into life on the internet. You may be great at finding new digital solutions that solve people’s needs, and perhaps you only discovered this during the crisis. If so, think about making it your profession. This is where what you are good at links with what you can get paid for.
4: What you can be paid for: Doing unpaid work, whether by running errands for elderly citizens or by providing your expertise for free in online seminars, has become part and parcel of our Covid experience. Voluntary work can be very rewarding. Nevertheless, being paid for good work should be the rule. Many people have already lost their jobs or fear for them. Unemployment sucks and it quickly becomes tragic where the social safety net is weak or non-existent.
The Covid crisis forces us to rethink and presents us with an opportunity to find our vocation. It is now much clearer what the world really needs, and this is where many opportunities for business and innovation open up. Want to contribute to curing disease? Consider a medical or research career. Want to care for others, make masks or sell local organic produce? You might find your vocation there. These, like other professions underpaid so far, may just benefit from a more widespread realization of what the world really needs, and hence will be better compensated in the longer term.
We have come full circle. Your ikigai is about finding your personal balance that is in tune with the world, whether as an individual or as a company. It is about using the crisis as an opportunity to move to the next level, to find a job with purpose that lets you demonstrate your talents and live your passion. You are already there? Congratulations! The world needs you to share your experience.
Let's use this crisis as an opportunity to move us and our organisations to the next level. Are you already there? Congratulations! The world needs you to share your experience.