IPMA International Project Management Association
19 June 2017 / 7:25

Ikigai, or the reason for getting up in the morning

A Japanese concept named “Ikigai” (生き甲斐)means “a reason for being”, or in French the “raison d’être”. Everyone has an Ikigai, it´s our intrinsic driver. You need to search for it and identify it in order to discover your individual source of value in your life or the things that make your life worthwhile. Finding the Ikigai brings purpose, happiness and satisfaction. In general the questions you need to ask yourself are: What do you love? What does the world need? What can you be paid for? What are you good at? Putting all the answers together will allow you to identify your Ikigai. It´s the intersection of all aspects. Other intersections point to your “”passion”, “mission”, “vocation” and “profession”. The other four intersections in the illustration at the left, right, bottom and top corner of the “Ikigai” have a special meaning, for example “comfortable, but feeling of emptiness” between the Ikigai and what you can be paid for…

What does “Ikigai” mean for the field of managing projects? You may only be successful when you know your Ikigai and build on it. Knowing what you love and what you are good at may help you to decide, whether you accept a project assignment or not. Accepting a project whilst knowing that it is not fitting your Ikigai may end up in just doing a “paid job”. Before engaging team members you may ask them “what they love” and “what they are good at”… Their answers may indicate whether they are passionate about the project. Understanding what the world needs may sharpen your senses in order to clarify the scope and requirements of the project. It helps you to analyse whether there is a match between what you can be paid for and what the project sponsor or stakeholders need. The better the fit between projects and your Ikigai, the more chances there are to achieve what is asked for in the project. It´s the ultimate form of self-actualization and a reason to get up every morning…


  • Thanks for sharing, Reinhard. Keep doing the right work the right way!

  • Bob Youker says:

    In a recent graduation speech an America General recommended that everyone make his/her bed as soon as he/she gets up in the morning. This gets you started doing something!

  • David Mathie says:

    Hi Reinhard, I recall talking and writing about this subject over 40 years ago; the fact that people need something more than “being” (as in “cogito ergo sum” – I think therefore I am) and “raison d’etre” was/is that something. I think the last time I raised it in public was at an Internet (now IPMA) conference in Moscow in 1993 during a Q & A, which was mainly for Russian executives. Your summation is indeed perfect. Cheers.

  • Dear all, thanks for the positive feedback, sometimes it´s the simple thing or question or answer that brings us forward, I therefore like what Daniel Defoe wrote in 1697: a projector needs common sense, honesty and ingenuity. All the best to you all

  • Ivano Di Filippo says:

    “You may only be successful when you know your Ikigai and build on it”; absolutely agree on Reinhard.
    I would stress that your own Ikigai should not be mismatched with the other project stakeholders Ikigai.
    That “project Ikigai” should not be mismatched with the other projects Ikigai in what we can call the “Program of life” where all the correlated projects have been taking forward.
    Because World life if a Program which we should be able to perceive its value of, or as you say, Reinhard: “Understanding what the world needs may sharpen your senses in order to clarify the scope and requirements of the project”.
    Being aware of your own Ikigai and of others Ikigai and how those two ones can match together, for working together, while we all feel great because, because we all know we are doing the right thing (De Foe: “honestly and ingenuity”), that together we are not contrasting anyone, we are helping World in its own Program scope (De Foe: “the common sense”).
    Being ready to “feel” with your own soul and “tune” with the other’s soul and how they can tune each other.
    It looks like a flow from soul to soul, from my Ikigai to your Ikigai, I can’t but being able to feel your needs and expectations, to feel your Ikigai.
    In Zen, the masters usually say “shin den shin”, from my soul to your soul, from my heart to your heart.

    Thanks so much Reinhard for this great thread.

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.