What does the concept of ikigai really mean and why it’s so crucial in inclusion and ADHD coaching

The complexity of ikigai reflects the complexities of life itself

In Japan, ikigai is an everyday word. The concept of ikigai isn’t necessarily perceived as some great meaning of life but instead, it’s about what YOU value in your daily life. For me, nowadays, that translates as popping to a local cafe after the frantic school run and taking some time for myself. I enjoy a small breakfast and a coffee for a peaceful half an hour, and it gives me the impetus to go on for the day. It’s my time to regroup. And it’s something I look forward to – especially on Manic Mondays or days when nothing seems to be going well. But it’s certainly not something that’s my life’s purpose.

coffee on cup and saucerThere are spectrums of ikigai,  from something small, like a cup of coffee in the morning to something much bigger.


For quite some time, there has been a VENN diagram circulating around the Internet that features ikigai. It suggests that the concept is a combination of your passion and what you can be paid for. It’s since come to light that the diagram was changed by Marc Winn. He edited an existing diagram related to ‘purpose’ and supplanted the word ikigai over the top. And – while I’m not sure exactly who came up with the original diagram – Winn seemed to have adapted one created in Spanish by Andrés Zuzunaga. It was originally designed to help people create a better work-life balance. There can obviously be an overlap with the concept of ikigai, but it doesn’t represent the definition of the Japanese idea.

This VENN diagram was originally created to illustrate one’s sense of ‘purpose’ © Nicholas Kemp

And while it’s possible that this Westernized ikigai diagram corresponds to someone’s concept of ikigai – it doesn’t represent mine or that of the Ikigai Tribe that I form part of. Nick Kemp set up The Ikigai Tribe as a way of making ikigai coaching more accessible and to really convey the true meaning behind the concept. His podcasts and coaching programs garner huge praise. I completed the coaching program in July 2021 and have found that this concept is foundational to so many disciplines.


What I find fascinating about it is how your own personal concept of ikigai can change over time. And also how there are different levels to it. It takes work; you have to be honest with yourself and really think about what makes your life worth living.

Mieko Kamiya published “ikigai-ni-Tsuite (What Makes Our Life Worth Living)” in 1966

Mieko Kamiya is often described as the Mother of Ikigai Psychology. She published the formative ‘Ikigai-ni-Tsuite (What Makes Our Life Worth Living)‘ in 1966. Indeed, Kamiya defined ikigai with two concepts: something that is a source of ikigai and the state of mind when one is feeling ikigai. She pointed out that ikigai is forward-looking and tied to one’s self-worth and personal values.

“In order to be a master of ikigai, you really need to appreciate how complex and rich life actually is” – Ken Mogi

Meanwhile Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist, and author of The Little Book of Ikigai has spoken about the spectrums of ikigai. It could be something small, like my cup of coffee in the morning, or it could be something huge – like wanting to write a bestseller or learning to fly a plane. The complexity of ikigai reflects the complexities of life itself. “In order to be a master of ikigai, you really need to appreciate how complex and rich life actually is” – Ken Mogi


And, for me, that is why I wanted to combine my training as an ikigai coach with being an ADHD and an inclusion coach. Life is complex. And there are so many intersections: People who identify as BIPOC/BAME and neurodivergent. Or LGTBQ+ folx who are also BIPOC/BAME and/or live with ADHD. I want to help people navigate these complexities.To lean into what their ikigai might be and let them draw strength from that – especially during times of difficulty. ADHD coaching is all about tapping into your strengths and self-worth and living according to your personal values. So there’s a clear relationship between ikigai and ADHD coaching! Through this approach, I can help you figure out your personal values and who make up your community. I can help you discover the real you and thrive! So reach out today for a free discovery call.

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