Rob Bell lays out the basics of the Japanese concept of ikigai, the search for purpose and fulfillment in life. Illustrator Mark Winn created a Venn diagram often used to explain the idea:
The word is generally considered hard to translate accurately, and the concept was a bit of a fad in Japan in the 1970s. Via Darling:
According to Japanese culture, everyone has ikigai. It indicates the value that one finds in their life or the things that make someone feel like their life is valuable. It refers to both mental and spiritual circumstances that make one feel like their life has reason.
What really sings for me about ikigai is that it's interchangeable. It's unique to every individual and acknowledges that the idea of "happiness" is actually quite elusive. Ikigai, as a concept, is able to develop as you do. If one path of purpose ceases to exist, you can adapt, change and pursue new passions with purpose. Ikigai makes room for this.
There are many different facets to ikigai, but there is one fundamental part to it that really stood out for me: Even if your present doesn't feel right, if you don't feel truly valuable in your current state but you have a strong goal you're striving towards, then you will have found your ikigai.