Ikigai, How to Choose your Career Path and Discover Your Strengths

Powerful Career Advice to Explore Your Life Potential and Find a Meaningful Job, ... Getting Fired, or when Making a Career Change

Dr. Clement Harrison

Dr. Clement Harrison is an author and founder of the consultancy firm Muze Publishing. His books and consultancy firm assisted people from all walks of life with unlocking the door to business and personal success. 

This book is one that has been a long time in the making. It’s jam-packed with more than three decades’ experience working with individuals in the job market. Some desperately unhappy, some desperate to make career changes, some feeling anxious about their futures that it was literally making them ill. 

This has been part of my life’s work for the greater part of 30 years. I have been working closely with people and helping them discover what they’re meant to be doing. It’s more than filling executive assignments. People are unique, and just as each of us has different DNA that sets us apart, there’s something out there that’s exclusively for you. Let’s discover your destiny, together shall we?

This book focuses on the career path; as the title suggests, it gives people ideas on how to explore their life potential and find a meaningful job. In this review, let’s see how the author incorporates Ikigai into having a successful career.

Finding your way

Many times, the frustration we feel in our careers comes from living out someone else’s dream career rather than your own. The amazing thing about life is that you can achieve anything you want to achieve by making the right career choices. Decisions that are aligned with your core beliefs and your value system. You can never be truly happy unless you’re living out your own purpose, rather than one that belongs to someone else. Figuring out your purpose is what will drive you towards the career that will resonate within you and feel like ‘home’.

Discovering and identifying your ‘why’ will help you move out of an environment where you’re feeling stuck, or you no longer belong. 

As we grow and mature, gain new experiences, and are exposed to new ideas, our motivations for doing things change. What was important to us five or even ten years ago versus what’s important now could be completely different. 

This book focuses on the career path that one should take, and one way to do so is by identifying what your core values are. This reminds me of Yohei Nakajima’s blog post, “What is your ikigai?” Yohei wrote: “In order to find your ikigai, you must identify your role within your community. This means to find and actively pursue what you enjoy providing for your community.” 

I think it is vital to know what we really value in life; the things that really matter to find what our role in our community is. However I wouldn’t say that ikigai is about having a successful profession because ikigai is about what you value in all aspects of your life. It is not limited to career goals. The author mentions having career changes and discovering your ‘why’, I think having ikigai can help especially when undergoing some career changes because when someone undergoes a career change, it may be stressful, some might find it difficult to deal with, but having a sense of ikigai helps a person to go through all those challenges. 

Discovering your ikigai

Your Ikigai is completely unique to you and you alone. It provides you with a sense of purpose and may often point you in the direction you need to go to feel fulfilled. It is not subjected to who you are, what position you hold, how much money you have in the bank, or any of the other conventional career testing strategies. 

I agree that each person has their unique ikigai; it can be the simple pleasures that we have in life, and it varies for every person -- anything that motivates us in our daily living. 

The origin of ikigai

The author makes some false claims in his book, stating that:

The Ikigai comes from Okinawa in Japan and appears to date back to the Heian period in Japanese history (794 to 1185). 

Ikigai is not just a concept from Okinawa; it is a Japanese concept with a long history. I was able to interview Dr. Akihiro Hasegawa, where he shares that for the Japanese people, ikigai is not about work or making money. Hasegawa shares that the origin of the word ikigai goes back to the Heian period, about 1500 years ago; gai comes from the word kai (shell). At that time, shells were deemed  highly valuable because artists decorated them by hand and used them in a game called kaiawase (shell matching game); only wealthy people could afford such shells. Consequently, kai or gai were used to define value, while iki came from the verb ikiru (daily living).

The author briefly mentions Mieko Kamiya and incorrectly claims she was a psychologist when in fact she was a psychiatrist. 

The well-known psychologist Mieko Kamiya states that “Japanese people believe that the sum of small joys in everyday life results in more fulfilling life as a whole” (Kamiya, 1966). 

I would regard Mieko Kamiya as the “Mother of ikigai psychology”; Kamiya was the first person to do an in-depth study on ikigai and published several books about it, including Ikigai ni Tsuite. Kamiya introduces the term, ikigai-kan (ikigai feeling): a state of mind where people feel ikigai. Kamiya wrote that the sense of ikigai, compared to happiness, has a clearer sense of looking towards the future: because there are forward-facing hopes and goals, people can feel ikigai no matter what the current situation is.

Identifying your ikigai

Clement states two ways that help people in identifying their ikigai:

First, is with a Venn diagram:

  • I’m especially good at...?

  • Things I love doing…?

  • What can I be paid for doing…?

  • What does the world need most…?

The second option is to write out three separate lists:

  • Things you’re good at doing

  • What would you like to be doing

  • Your value system

I don’t think that ikigai is something that we seek for; I believe it’s the other way around, it comes to us naturally, and it is closer to intrinsic motivation. The Ikigai Venn Diagram is a Western interpretation of ikigai; it’s a misunderstanding of what ikigai really is. Ikigai involves our feelings that we have; the things that give us pleasure that makes us appreciate our lives.


The author mentions that this book aims to give people enough information to:

  • Know more about yourself and what you really want

  • Explore various career options available

  • Be inspired by other career change success stories that will motivate you to move

  • Nail down specific tips for getting the job you really want

  • Finding the motivation to start

  • Dealing with failure

  • Considerations in choosing career

  • Find satisfaction in your next job

Using the information provided, you should have been able to discover your Ikigai, which should have helped you with identifying your life work or your true purpose.

Being specific on what you want from a career, as well as from life, can help you achieve your true purpose. 

The author provides ways on how people can land to their chosen career paths. I think that it is helpful, especially for those people having career uncertainties, but defining as ikigai is misleading. Ikigai is not all about work or careers. In Japan, they have a term called hatarakigai (value of working); it is the meaning and purpose that is derived from work which I think is more applicable to the topic of this book.

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