The opening gala of the 2017 Ateneo Career Fair last Friday, February 10, was a worthwhile affair. I was inspired to hear university administrators, student leaders, and fellow alumni repeatedly underscore purpose as a primary motivation in the life that they will choose to live after graduation. It seems that despite all the comforts that millennials are known to embrace, the old metrics of success – money, fame, and power – are no longer enough to make this generation happy. "Be champions for nation-building," VP for Loyola Schools Luz Vilches urged the seniors, giving a push to the Ateneans' purpose-oriented mission of being women and men for others.
Another notable speaker that evening was Carla Siojo, the director of the college placement office. Ms. Siojo introduced the Japanese concept of ikigai (生き甲斐), raison d'être for the French and simply, for most, a reason for being.
Ikigai transcends profession and its more noble kins, passion, mission, and vocation. Though I am quite adamant about vocation as an overlap of that which the world needs and that which you can be paid for, the concept of ikigai argues that one does not have to sacrifice any of the circles below to pursue a meaningful career and life as a whole. The path to success begins in a melting pot of skills and opportunities that are sufficiently flavoured with what our hearts call for and what the world outside yearns for.
Finding your ikigai requires some self-examination that goes beyond asking, what do I really want to do in this lifetime? This exercise is not limited to fresh graduates who are at the crossroads of opportunities. Even us who are already quite settled in our chosen paths might occasionally be in need of some motivation—a renewed purpose in life that is no less than our reason for being. Our ikigai.
I took the liberty of revising the self-assessment questionnaire shared by Ms. Siojo for those of the latter kind, enclosing these tailored questions inside parentheses:
What do I love? (Do I (still) love what I do?)
What am I good at? (Am I good with what I do?)
What can I be paid for? (Am I well-compensated for doing what I love and what I am good at?)
What does the world need? (Have I contributed to meeting what the world needs? Is this still what the world needs?
After answering all these questions, would you say that you are currently living your ikigai?
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
- Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ