IKIGAI - Das japanische Geheimnis für ein glückliches Leben

Ikigai (jap. 生き甲斐)


In 2018, the dropout rate in bachelor's degree programs at universities in Germany was 27%, according to the education report "Education in Germany 2020" published by the German Center for Higher Education and Science Research.

Successfully passing a semester means earning 30 ECTS points. This corresponds to about 30 hours of lectures per week. In addition, there are further hours for group work and individual projects. In the entire semester, you will have a workload of at least 750 hours.

To pay for rent and food, many students also have a student job, which usually takes them another 20 hours a week. Friends, family and hobbies also require time.

Due to this pressure to perform, many doubt the purpose of their daily efforts and question their chosen path.

We present: IKIGAI - The method to identify your life purpose in everyday life and work more every day in the direction of your goals.


What is Ikigai and how does it work?

Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy of life. It helps you to make groundbreaking decisions. Iki stands for life, gai for meaning, that which drives people. In short: Ikigai is what is worth living for. 

The concept of Ikigai is best represented in a drawing. It consists of recording four basic areas of life. These areas are drawn by interlocking circles. The intersection of all four areas form your IKIGAI. Your meaning of life, the central point by which you find satisfaction and happiness.


Long life due to Ikigai

The inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa live according to the Ikigai principle. These are among the oldest and healthiest people in the world.


The four basic areas

  1. What I am particularly good at
  2. What I love
  3. That for which I am currently paid or could be paid
  4. What the world needs


You should answer these questions with short terms that apply to you. This may seem quite simple at first. Try to leave the first doubts aside and look for an honest and well-considered answer. Go through all the areas circle by circle. At the end of this article you will find an additional exercise.


What I am particularly good at

Think about where your strengths lie. In general, we humans are more inclined to focus on the negative aspects. Be sure to be self-critical, but not self-deprecating. This attitude will propel you forward and help you see where changes are needed in your life.


What do I love?

This question refers to your passion. Something that you can do for several hours without feeling mentally or physically exhausted afterwards.

If you practice your passion, you will easily get into the flow state. This is a state you are in when the work can be done with an ease. A state of mind full of energy and drive.


What does the world need?

Look in your immediate environment. What does your world need? Is there a problem you can help with?

This is how you recognize the meaningfulness in your activity. Here we can speak of a kind of mission. Some people are committed to animal welfare, while others support their profession with an honorary office.


How do I earn my money?

How nice it would be to belong to those people who love their work. Who get up in the morning and don't separate life time from work time. You could give yourself to your work with joy.

In the best case, the things you are good at and enjoy doing overlap with your job. That way you deliver good results and have the best conditions for success.


If you can answer all these questions honestly for yourself, you will not only come closer to your Ikigai, but also to your true personality. This is because finding your personality and your Ikigai are closely connected.

What do I do if my ikigai is incomplete? 

It is quite possible that you could not see an overlap in your answers to all points. The concept of Ikigai sees the human being as a whole. Like a house with four pillars. If one pillar is missing, it is quite possible that the house is standing but never really stable and feels imperfect.


See here what you can do if you are missing a certain area:

The method of Ikigai does not want to dictate anything to you in any way. You can see the Ikigai as a guide, which helps you to recognize the shortest way to your goal. Find out where you are in your life right now. Discover sides of yourself that you may need to work on. It is important to always be true to yourself and to take risks. Reflect on yourself and realize who you really are and what you want from life.


Exercise - How to use Ikigai?

Find a quiet place and take about an hour. Try to think seriously about each of the four questions. You should not write down the first thing that comes to your mind. This is because the goal of the Ikigai is to reflect on your worldview. This gives you the opportunity to discover honest answers instead of listing habits.

Don't forget to be as specific as possible. Let's take the hobby of jogging, for example. What exactly do you love about it? Is it the feeling of being exhausted or the "runner's high" that you enjoy? If you get stuck on some of the questions, reach out to friends and family.


  1. What I am particularly good at
  • What is easy for me?
  • What do others think my skills are?
  • What topics do friends and colleagues ask you for advice on?
  • What topics do friends and colleagues ask you for advice on?
  1. What do I love?
  • Which hobby do I practice with enthusiasm?
  • What do I never get bored with?
  • What did you perhaps like to do as a child - and still like to do today?
  • What excites me (even if I can't do it perfectly yet)?
  1. What does the world need?
  • What are people missing? Can I create something new or leave something to the world?
  • What problems can I solve? (Remember that even small steps help to make a big difference).
  • What area do I want to be involved in?
  • Would anyone miss anything if I quit my job now?
  1. How do I earn my money?
  • How do I currently earn my money? What skills could I use to earn money?
  • What are my other sources of income?
  • Have I been able to help others and would there be people who would pay me for that help?
  •  Do you know people with similar talents to your own? What do they do for a living?

Further tips:

If you're stuck on finding your ikigai, it's time to try something new. Always follow your curiosity. Try a new hobby, work at a new job, or find new friends. The more experiences you have, the closer you get to your Ikigai.



Fun Fact:If you invest three months for something new, at 25 years it's only 1% of your time.



  • Try a new sport:  You can also register for the sports courses at the University of Ulm via the University of Applied Sciences Neu-Ulm. Info at: www.sport.uni-ulm.de
  • Spend time in nature: Find beautiful hiking trails wherever you are with the app "Komoot".
  • Take time for yourself: Try meditation. The app "Calm" can help you relax.


Book recommendations:

  • “Ikigai: Gesund und glücklich hundert werden” by Francesc Miralles and Héctor García
  • “Hectors Reise oder die Suche nach dem Glück” by François Lelord
  • Sorge dich nicht – lebe! by Dale Carnegie




Authors: Sarah Schmirander, Tamara Pavlovic