Four Questions for Success in Balancing Business and Life

February 26, 2021

Success is one of those words that can mean totally different things to different people. However, no matter what business you are in, success is definitely not all about the money. Rather than trying to pin work-life “success” down with a definition so vague as to be meaningless, let’s approach this elusive unicorn from another angle.

Finding the Intersection

The most holistic concept of success ever devised may be the Japanese “Ikigai” – a symmetrical, Venn-diagram like, highly personal map that takes into account four-wide realms of adult life:

  • Passion: What do I love?
  • Profession: What am I good at?
  • Mission: What does the world need?
  • Vocation: What can I be paid for?

The magic happens at the intersection of the domains – where your passions and abilities blend with things the world needs and is willing to pay you for delivering. Seen as layers of overlapping circles, the pattern makes it obvious that balance is key. With too much fervency, the scale will be tipped against robust income generation. Similarly, if you discount your own innate skills, you’ll miss the opportunity to put your heart into everything you do during your working hours. Ikigai is the sweet spot, where all of the engines intersect.

Ikigai literally means “life” or “aliveness” plus “a reason for living that life.” You can think of your Ikigai as the reason that gets you up in the morning or as the thing that makes life worth living. The French concept of raison d’être is similar to this.

Discovering your Ikigai requires recognizing your greatest passion and then finding the medium through which you can express that passion. Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, authors of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, recommend making a list of the activities in your life that put you in the “flow” state – that place where you feel both relaxed and focused. Then, consider your list and see what these activities may have in common. Do you find yourself in flow when you are around people or when you are alone? Are you in flow when being creative or being analytical? When you are using your body or when you are being still? The similarities in the activities that engage you will point you in the direction of your Ikigai.

Every Domain Matters

The trick to using Ikigai as a driving force to improve your business prospects is to be sure that all areas of your map are being developed. Each domain – passion, profession, vocation, mission – must be present in your approach for a true balance to blossom. Success, in whatever form you desire, will be the happy outcome of discovering and honoring your Ikigai!


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