How to Help Clients Find Their Ikigai

Help Clients Find Their Ikigai Work Life Coaching

Certified Work-Life Strategists Lori Jazvac and Ksenia Lazoukova learned about the fascinating concept of ikigai while participating in CPC’s pilot Work-Life Strategist program in December 2020. Intrigued by this concept, they collaborated to learn how they might incorporate ikigai into their client practice. Here, they share how you can help clients find their ikigai.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai (pronounced ee-key-guy) is a Japanese word meaning “one’s reason for being” or “life’s worth.” This concept integrates the joy of doing something with a sense of purpose, meaning, and well-being. Many disillusioned people strive for ikigai without really knowing what it is they seek or how to find it.

Ksenia’s Story: Her Search for Ikigai

Many years ago, Ksenia started searching for a meaningful vocation that could give her life purpose and fuel her passion. She wanted to work one-on-one with people to help them overcome barriers and achieve their dreams and goals. With enough savings to keep her afloat, Ksenia quit her job and focused on finding her purpose. She meditated, did yoga, journaled, conducted guided dream job visualizations, created gratitude lists, and engaged with empowering people. In fact, she practiced wellness in all areas of life.

These activities enabled her to find her vocation – her ikigai. In Ksenia’s words, “Ikigai is the intersection between what we are good at, what we love doing, and what others need and see value in.” Ksenia started working as a Residential Counsellor, supporting people with disabilities. Twelve years later, she transitioned to employment services and career support. Her profession is a labour of love.

Lori’s Story: Her Search for Purpose and Meaning

Lori’s story has a theme that is similar to Ksenia’s – she was searching for a sense of purpose and meaning. During the 2008 recession, a second downsizing fuelled her decision to return to school. Lori knew she wanted to help people who were struggling with finding purpose in their careers. She felt she could inspire and heal by integrating creative writing and holistic coaching strategies into a career development process. In Lori’s previous career, creativity and flexibility were not always encouraged. Roadblocks were often put up and growth was stagnant.

Lori made a significant career transition that involved establishing a home-office-based career service to support jobseekers around the globe. The distinct vision and ideas behind Lori’s career service firm, Creative Horizons Communications, began to unveil themselves one day while she was meeting with a colleague. She now leverages her diverse  experiences and lessons learned to help jobseekers navigate restructurings, recover from setbacks, embrace new career horizons, and find their ikigai. Interestingly, Lori had never heard of the term “ikigai” before taking the Work-Life Coaching program, but once she learned the concept, she had a revelation that she’d actually stumbled upon her ikigai – her reason for being – back in 2013 when she set up her career practice.

Why is Ikigai Important?

Our world is a place where material and spiritual needs are intertwined. Yet, it is not enough to simply search for a well-paying profession. The external motivation to secure material wealth may satisfy physical needs but is unlikely to bring genuine fulfillment in finding our life’s purpose or realizing our potential.

It is necessary to distinguish between having a job and meaningful work. The former stems from an external motivation such as money and prestige, while the latter evolves from the internal inspiration that brings us joy and meaning. As American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell said, “follow your bliss and don’t be afraid” to live a long and happy life filled with joy and purpose.

When we start searching from within and focus on what really matters to us, we experience joy and clarity. We clear our minds and invite openness and space for creativity. Our confidence, courage, resilience, and influence grow. We start attracting positive people, events, and opportunities. We’re on our way to finding ikigai. By practicing a careerpreneurial attitude, we advance both our personal and professional growth.

Career Exploration

When our clients are looking to change their careers, we can converse about the things they love and are good at. We can help them explore new possibilities through questionnaires and assessments that stimulate self-reflection.

Encourage clients to volunteer for a cause that is meaningful to them. Volunteer roles provide a safe and empowering space to learn new skills, gain work experience, create professional connections, build job references, and do what matters most to them. These opportunities may even lead to employment.

Journaling, meditation, yoga, guided dream job visualizations, and informational interviews are insightful methods of exploring innovative vocational ideas.

As ikigai involves finding joy and balance between all areas of our lives, it’s vital to support our wellness while engaging in career exploration. By taking care of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental needs, we become more open to serendipity­ – leveraging chance events at the right time and place with the right people. If we take a leap of faith, we may just stumble upon our ikigai by a serendipitous route; it need not be a complex or long process.

How to Help Clients Find Their Ikigai

We can help our clients find their ikigai by encouraging self-reflection and having them document the answers to some thought-provoking questions. Employing a mindset rooted in ikigai will enable our clients to articulate their vision and mission as they strive for self-actualization.

What do they love? (passion)

  • What is your client motivated to do when they first wake up?
  • What inspires or motivates your client?
  • What are your client’s core values and how are these values aligned with their passion?
  • What is your client doing when they are at their best?

What are they good at? (profession)

  • What sets your client apart in terms of unique value, special strengths, or offerings?
  • What have people commended them on doing the best?
  • What comes naturally to them in terms of strengths?
  • How could they improve upon and re-channel their weaknesses into strengths?

What can they be compensated for? (vocation)

  • What work could your client do that they can be rewarded for?
  • How important is getting compensated for this type of work?
  • What value does your client place on the nature of this work?
  • How can others weigh on your client’s ability to be compensated for this type of work

What does the world need? (mission)

  • As we consider the changes occurring in society and the workforce, how could your client add value?
  • How could your client deliver a significant contribution in a certain area?
  • What unique problem could your client solve that would make a difference to the organization, community, or society?

Ikigai: Focus on the Journey Instead of the Destination

Ikigai is not a destination or an end result, but a journey about discovering meaning and joy in the present moment. It’s about feeling wholehearted engagement in all areas of life. It involves going outside your comfort zone to face new challenges. It means being spontaneous, curious and creative, and willing to evolve, grow, and make mistakes while embracing the valuable lessons gained through our challenges and our triumphs.

People change jobs often. Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their lifetime. The world of work is rapidly changing, so we need to understand how these dynamic trends and developments impact us. These changes call upon us to redefine our vision and mission and create a brighter and more peaceful world.

As career professionals, we can be our clients’ lighthouse in times of uncertainty and guide them toward their ikigai. Precarious situations and periods of change can propel us to raise our consciousness and discover new ways of being and serving in the world. We can align ourselves with our ikigai and encourage clients to embrace this mindset for greater fulfillment and meaning.

“Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning.”

Héctor Garcia, author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.

Ksenia Lazoukova is a dynamic Employment Specialist at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, helping newcomers to Nova Scotia with their employment goals. In her past role as a Job Coach with Easter Seals Nova Scotia/New Leaf Enterprises, Ksenia provided a wide range of employment services to people with disabilities. Ksenia has over 14 years of experience serving people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Her passion is helping people of various backgrounds overcome multiple barriers, fulfill their life and career goals, and become more fully integrated into their communities.

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I loved reading the stories shared about Ksenia and Lori. They have found their Ikigai. They show it’s possible to help clients find not just another job, but work that provides joy and a happy life.

Learning about Ikigai in the Work-Life Strategist program helped me work with clients and use a different filter to help them sort through their next steps. This article reinforces the approach again.

Thank you for this!

Thank you so much, Barb. Like you, I am very thankful to have taken the fantastic Life-Work Coaching program and have learned about Ikigai. It is such a beautiful model for living a life with meaning, purpose, joy, and passion. I know our clients are benefiting from the knowledge and skills we gained in the CWS program. I am excited for people who will be taking the course and learning everything we learned, especially the practice of attaining fulfillment in one’s vocation, the Ikigai. 

Thank you, Barb, for your positive feedback! I agree. Career stories fuel healing, hope, and inspiration. I believe that work adds new meaning and fulfillment when it is rooted in a genuine purpose and drive to serve others, and essentially, help jobseekers find their “ikigai”. The amazing Work-Life Strategist Program also enabled me to apply a refreshing perspective when coaching clients and writing creative resumes. Glad that you participated in the course and gained much value from this experience as well.

I stumbled upon Ikigai a couple of years ago and I have included in my toolbox of resources. I have used the concept with some clients and they loved it.

Thank you for sharing, Christine. Ikigai is a beautiful concept in the career exploration toolbox. It’s exciting that Ikigai is getting momentum with career development professionals.

Thank you for sharing, Christine! Glad to hear that you are incorporating this powerful concept with clients and that it has proven to be helpful.

Lori and Ksneia, your examples bring clarity to the ikigai model. Thank you

Thanks so much, Lotte. A personal story adds the human dimension to any theory. When we did our research for the article, it was astonishing to see every person’s different path to Ikigai. We came across some more research that suggests that Ikigai can start with curiosity, openness, and simply following intuition. I love that – being curious somehow sounds less intimidating than the quest to find life’s true purpose and passion. 

Thank you, Lotte, for your valuable feedback! When ikigai is treated as a spontaneous process rooted in self-reflection, storytelling, and creative brainstorming, it can bring greater clarity to one’s authentic vision and mission.