My career has spanned three different decades and lots of things have changed. Everything from the formality of the office dress code to the way we communicate with our co-workers. (Think memorandums versus text message.) One thing that hasn’t changed is the number of people who have confessed to me that they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

I have coached young professionals in their 20’s who haven’t picked a career because they don’t know where to start. I recently coached an accountant in her 30’s because while she was very good at her job, it left her tired and uninspired at the end of the day. After the pandemic, I coached a lot of professionals in their 40’s and 50’s who were ready to try something new. They didn’t know what they wanted to do for the next 20 years of their career, but they knew it wasn’t what they had been doing for the last 20 years!

Most of us need to work for a living. I would suggest that everyone I have ever met would like to find a way to do that while providing a valuable service that feeds their soul.

Maybe it isn’t possible for everyone to find that one thing, but as a business consultant, I take satisfaction from helping as many people as I can grow, learn, and develop in a way that’s meaningful to them. The Japanese culture embodies the belief that we can all find that thing. In fact, they have a word for it.


In its literal form, the term “iki” refers to the concept of life or being alive, while “kai,” (pronounced as “gai” in this case) can be translated as worthiness, fruitfulness, or effectiveness.
It’s the intersection of

  1. The thing you love to do
  2. The thing you are good at
  3. Something that the world needs
  4. Good/service that others will pay for

This is the place where you find your flow state and get energy from your endeavors. Excellence comes easily because you are working with your natural inclinations, talents, and gifts. And if, like many people, you need your job to support yourself financially, something that others value as well.

Ikigai requires that you carve out some time to deepen your self- knowledge and challenge your assumptions about what is possible.  It requires that you create a plan based in something different than where you are today and then ground your plan in the reality of the world in which we live.

A great way to explore and uncover the possibilities of your Igikai is through the delicate balance of assessment-based data and a coach who will challenge you from a place of care and compassion.

I am grateful that at Steople we use a variety of scientifically validated assessments to help people learn more about their drive, their motivation, and their inherent gifts. Assessments can be helpful as you identify the areas of work that you truly enjoy and that you are naturally skilled in.  They will frequently put into words things you always knew about yourself but didn’t know how to explain.  Assessments are a great first step as you are looking for clarity around a vocation or profession that speaks to you. Through assessments you can begin to identify the work that allows you to most easily reach your place of excellence.

So, whether you are early in your career, experiencing a mid-career pivot, or just want to do something different for the last part of your career, using assessments to begin mapping your Ikigai may be the perfect way for you to discover the worthiness of being alive through your work.

Want to learn more about the concept of Ikigai?  Check out the book Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Want to start your journey into Ikigai? Give us a call. We are here to help.