Using Ikigai in coaching and mentoring

Ikigai MountainIn Japan, Ikigai is a popular concept that makes millions of people want to get out of bed in the morning. It is translates simply as the ‘reason for being’. The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: ‘iki’ referring to life, and ‘kai’, which roughly means “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”.

To me Ikigai is a great tool for a coach or mentor to use with both their coachees and mentees and themselves as they develop their own self-awareness.

When we talk with our coachees and mentees about developing their resilience levels and finding their ‘passion’ we are generally boxing them into areas, which don’t straddle work, personal life and interests. With Ikigai, there is no siloing. With the increasing trend in mental health issues in the workplace, a tool to help individuals find their passion, plus their mission, vocation and profession and consider their respective relationships and balance between the four elements is very powerful.

So what is Ikigai?

What is Ikigai?Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four basic elements:

  • What you love (your passion and mission)
  • What the world needs (your mission and vocation)
  • What you are good at (your passion and profession)
  • What you can get paid for (your profession and vocation)

Discovering your own Ikigai to bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer. 
As a coach or mentor helping your coachee or mentee to identify what they can do to identify or express their Ikigai and how this compares with their current reality of life, can be so insightful. So many people are caught in the trap of doing what they feel they have to do in order to support their families, deliver on obligations or make a living! Using a solution-focused approach to how their lives would look if they ‘allowed’ themselves to live a life, which converges on these four elements can be a major breakthrough.

How can a coach or mentor use Ikigai?

Begin by asking your coachee or mentee some questions. Use your own, or here are some ideas:

What do you Love? When do you come alive or feel in flow? When we enter a state of ‘flow’ we lose the sense of time passing. Have you ever been so absorbed in a task that you don’t realize what time it is? Notice when you enter flow, and your ikigai might be embedded in those moments.

What do you think the world needs? What really upsets you? What change would you most love to create in the world? What do you want to put your energy into sorting out in the world?

What are you really good at? What unique talents do you have that come most naturally to you? What skills have you developed over time and what are you great at even when you aren’t trying?

What do people value and pay you for? What service or offering do you bring, or could you bring, that brings real value to others? Something people need and are happy to pay for or share some value in exchange?

Work to support your coachee or mentee to write whatever key words, phrases and ideas come up for them in each circle and look for areas of natural overlap. Help them to reflect on each of these elements and how they may relate to each other. This process may take several sessions to complete or your coachee or mentee may have a ‘Eureka’ moment and their thinking fit into place clearly in their minds using the support of the Ikigai framework.

Some top tips

  1. What do you do if your coachee or mentee has several passions in life? Then help them to narrow them down and feel confident enough to try out or experiment with different things.
  2. Support your coachee or mentee through setbacks. This is normal and things won’t be straightforward. You will need to provide ongoing support whilst they find their way.
  3. Help your coachee or mentee to network with likeminded people whilst developing their Ikigai. Growing their networks and building coalitions and alliances with the right people.

Ten rules to find Ikigai

In their book Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles describe the ten rules that can help anyone find their own Ikigai. Try transforming these rules into questions or prompts for a coach or mentor to use when supporting an individual to reevaluate their lives. The ten rules are:

  1. Stay active and don’t retire
  2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
  3. Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
  4. Surround yourself with good friends
  5. Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
  6. Smile and acknowledge people around you
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive
  9. Live in the moment
  10. Follow your Ikigai.

So I suggest you practise Ikigai first on yourself in a playful way and discover how useful it can be to add to your coaching and mentoring toolbox. Let me know what you think to it?

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This entry was posted in Coaching, Mentoring and tagged , by Lis Merrick. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lis Merrick

Lis Merrick is Managing Director of Coach Mentoring Limited, the ISMCP Accreditation Chair (European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programmes), a Visiting Fellow of the Coaching and Mentoring Research Unit at Sheffield Business School and she was the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) UK President from 2015 to 2018.

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