A career coach explains how to find 'ikigai' at work, the Japanese concept for 'jumping out of bed with glee'

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A career coach explains how to find 'ikigai' at work, the Japanese concept for 'jumping out of bed with glee'
Angry boss shaking fist at sleeping businessman in officeMalte Mueller
  • Three in four workers are actively thinking about quitting their jobs amid "The Great Resignation."
  • Career coach Cherie Wilcox says the Japanese concept of "ikigai" can help unhappy employees.
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Across industries, workers are leaving their current positions for higher pay, greater flexibility, or entirely new career paths amid "The Great Resignation."

A record-breaking 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September, according to new data released by the US Department of Labor on Friday.

Cherie Wilcox, a career coach who specializes in job transitions and career pivots, told Insider that workers looking for more fulfilling positions should start by identifying their "ikigai." It's a Japanese concept with no direct English translation, generally meaning "your life's purpose," or "reason for waking up in the morning with glee."

Wilcox explained ikigai as the intersection of four circles: (1) what the world needs, (2) what you can make money at, (3) what you are good at, and (4) what you love.

"Where those overlap, plus the understanding of the person's true core values — the things that they can't live without — is a good North Star, or guiding light, toward finding their direction," she told Insider.

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The first component, "what the world needs," is how you can make an impact on the world.

"What you can make money at" rules out any hobbies — say archery or ping pong — that may be highly difficult to turn into a career.

To answer "what you're good at," Wilcox suggests asking six to 10 friends "what they think are your best skills/strengths and when they have seen you at your best." Or you can take the Gallup StrengthsFinder or DISC assessment, she added.

"What you love," can be identified by pinpointing when in your life or career you've felt "in the flow, or you've lost our sense of time, or when you felt the most energized," Wilcox said.

Once you've mapped out the four ikigai components, it's time to make a list of your "core values." According to Wilcox, if you're unhappy at work, your job is probably breaking a deeply held belief. Belonging, creativity, autonomy, integrity, work-life balance, fairness, connection, status, trust, and growth are a few examples.

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To find out which ideals are most important to you, Wilcox recommends reflecting back on recent arguments you've had with loved ones.

"If you think about those arguments, you're likely arguing over something that's really important," Wilcox said. "Journal on the last few times that you were upset — what was the fundamental value that was not being met?"

Together, mapping out the four ikigai components and at least three core values can help formulate a career pivot plan.

"Understanding your values is really important because if you go into a job or career and it doesn't match your values, it's going to potentially cause issues," she added.

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