Dear friend,

I’m sure you have experienced, sometimes, the strange effect of suddenly being made aware, from multiple unrelated sources, of someone, or something, you have never heard about before (I’m sure there is a name for this phenomenon). I choose to interpret these events as The Universe trying to communicate something to me specifically (rather than: everyone in the world is talking about the same thing). And when it happens, the least I can do is to take note of it.

For instance, I heard twice in the last couple of days (well, the last couple of days when I started writing this post) about the concept of Ikigai!

First in the latest episode of the Eggplant podcast external link , where it was mentioned as one of the principles inspiring Daniels in writing their Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All at Once external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , and then in a blog post by Barry Hess external link : as I understand it, it refers to the idea that one should try to identify their purpose in life, and improve their well-being by pursuing it.

In both instances, the idea was explained with the Venn diagram below: a sort of pragmatic recipe for happiness, which, in a very western-capitalist way, includes money to the discussion, suggesting that you can only reach ikigai if you get paid for what you do (to be clear: I am only talking about the diagram itself, not the contexts where I found it discussed).

Ikigai - By Eugenio Hansen, OFS external link - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 external link , link external link - via Wikimedia Common

Ikigai - By Eugenio Hansen, OFS external link - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 external link , link external link - via Wikimedia Common

Sure, it’s a nice visualisation (though I’m not sure that ‘Passion’, ‘Mission’, ‘Vocation’ are the best definitions for these intersections), and I understand that if one gets paid for performing an activity they enjoy, they don’t need to spend eight hours a day in a job that they possibly don’t like.

(On a side note, this reminds me of that aphorism: ‘If you do what you like, you’ll never work a day in your life’. A guarantee for burnout, in my opinion)

But can one not find fulfilment and a raison d’être in a not-for-profit type of activity? For instance, in being a good parent, or in doing voluntary work for a good social cause. And does one need to put all their effort in a single line of action?

I think a better recipe for fulfilment would be: try and cover all these four areas in your everyday life. Some of them will intersect, some won’t. You will be ok anyway.