In Japanese, the word Ikigai translates to “reason for being.”
Ikigai is the intersection of what someone is good at doing, with what they love to do, and with what the world needs. It is an imperative for the workplace and the source of personal fulfillment.
We stumbled on “Ikigai” while contemplating the concept of lifelong learning, a critical practice for succeeding in a knowledge-based economy. Lifelong learning is something in which we engage and which we encourage throughout our organization.
Lifelong learning, whether in a business or personal context, is continuous and self-motivated. While it can be formal or informal, it is the basis of our knowledge economy and leads one to open their thinking to a world beyond where they are. It enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and individual development. It is not one size fits all.
Professional development allows you to learn on the fly in any situation. It opens our thinking to the world around us and connects us with those who can make the future happen. Knowledge gives us the mental strength to bounce forward and seek outgrowth experiences.
Lifelong learning also helps maintain brain plasticity. New activities force you to think and learn keeping the brain healthy.
The consulting firm McKinsey identifies seven essential elements of a lifelong learning mindset:
Focus on growth
Become a Serial Master
Build your personal brand
Own your development journey
Do what you love
All of these are straightforward except being a Serial Master. Serial mastery is a deep and detailed understanding of a very specific area.
The challenge, though, is not allowing mastery to make us myopic. The goal is to continuously discover new passions which lead us to mastery along different paths. Philosophically and practically, some find generalists more valuable in innovative settings.
Freeman Dyson, an American theoretical physicist, believes that masters and generalists are much like frogs and birds.
Frogs are usually in the mud paying strict attention to all the little things going on about them. Birds are in the sky surveying and looking for the next opportunity.
Bottomline, we need both. A lifetime of learning gets us there.
Find your Ikigai!