Purpose, or a “reason for being”, is increasingly present in entrepreneurial endeavours and especially when it comes to social entrepreneurship. People today are not just looking to make a living; we want our activity to have “meaning”. The goal of this article is to introduce you to Ikigai, a tool we often use with entrepreneurs in pursuit of meaning. Ikigai (translation “a reason for being”) is a Japanese concept that can help you find a balance at the junction of these four circles:
Living by your Ikigai means accomplishing your life project. Ikigai helps you bring meaning and value and can very well apply to entrepreneurship: rather than contemplating whether your project is good or bad, think about your “reason for being”.
1. Passion: Does your project motivate you and bring you pleasure?
It seems obvious you should answer yes. First, because you only have one life and getting into a potentially very long venture that doesn’t enthuse you would be a waste of precious time. When you decide to start a business of go freelance, your passion is what drives you forward. It’s an indispensable motor for holding fast on a road filled with hurdles. Choosing a project you’re only mildly interested in would be running the risk of quitting part way through by lack of motivation and energy. Being passionate about your project is what will attract talents and convince them to stay: this applies to your potential associates, but also customers and employees. To locate your true passions, look into your past, think about your experiences (professional or other) and the activities that give you a boost, things that come to mind right away. It can be beneficial to create a vision board1 of your future achievements, which may resemble a mock-up of your final project, the company you dream of creating. Find a strategic place to put it, somewhere within your line of sight for the more listless days.
2. Mission: Do you have the skills required to see your project through?
We meet loads of enthusiastic project leaders who want to change the world with their passion but forget about the skills component. Of course, no one’s good at everything. Nonetheless, it’s important to consider the skills and resources you will need to make your service or project a reality. Where can you find the additional skills or resources? At what cost? What timeframe? Can you attract talents with the skills you need? You need to be realistic about your own abilities and the gaps to fill. Ikigai will help you pinpoint your talents in both hard skills and soft skills. Determine what is essential and focus on the tasks within your comfort zone or the area you feel passionately about to become an expert in that area. Personality tests can be useful for uncovering and assessing your entrepreneurial profile. Something that’s very easy to do is ask friends, family and colleagues for feedback: how they see your personality, your talents, personality traits, reliability, etc. You might be surprised!
3. Vocation: Does your project respond to something the world needs?
Once you’ve found the talents you need, it will be time to figure out how to use them to bring true value to your customers. Who is it your really want to help and how? What do you hope to contribute to the world? What are the causes that affect you? To find inspiration, you can read through the 17 sustainable development goals2 set by the UN. Is your project the fruit of your imagination or a real answer to a real problem? Of course, you don’t have to take an interest in the entire world, just one part that will become your market. Effectively targeting that market is better yet, knowing whether there is a significant need from a large number of people. This also encompasses the notion of world utility, which can be a powerful stimulus.
4. Profession: Is your project economically viable?
This involves establishing a business model and pay system. Will your project be able to generate enough turnover, profit and cashflow to be sustainable? Will your prospects be willing to pay for your product/service? If so, how much? Thanks to the internet, there have never been so many opportunities to explore. Building a solid network in line with the values you want to convey through your business is fundamental. Also, you should aim for a financial balance that does not rely on outside resources. It’s the only way to create an independent and resilient company with a solid foundation able to withstand a crisis. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs neglect to place enough emphasis on the “monetization” of their project.
It isn’t easy to fully respond to these four questions before setting up, but it’s interesting to think about them and gradually work toward finding the Ikigai of your entrepreneurial project.
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