Ikigai – What the world needs?

Having done more introspection, we now need to go beyond and consider the external circumstances. Asking a big question like this can be intimidating; not least because the needs of the world cannot quite be exhaustively listed down by an individual, nor be dealt with in that way.

But I think we should start by understanding the draw of this question. It is actually about a sense of purpose. In other words, there might be things that the world needs but it does not reasonate with you. You might think certain needs are more pressing than others though not everyone agrees with you. For example, climate change issues vs local unemployment problems. Both needs to be dealt with and you might happen to find that one ignites energy in you while the other discourages you, or simply awakens the desire to ignore it. So here are the 3 steps when it comes to trying to answer this question.

Start with the Big
One may think about starting with looking at your neighbourhood to identify what the world needs so that it is more actionable but that is the last step. You have to start with the bigger issues at hand, whether it is mental health stigmatisation, climate change, ageing population and so on. By finding out a bigger domain or issue that reasonates with you, you create the space which you can flexibly pivot around as you try to balance other factors.

Listen to the purpose
Then having identified the big ‘need’ that the world have, listen to the purpose underlying the need. For example, SpaceX was created because Elon Musk thinks humanity needs a Plan(et) B and he wants us to be able to colonise Mars. But at the heart of it, the sense of purpose is for the continuation of humanity and mankind. Having a sense of the underlying purpose allows you to continue to justify that ‘need’. It answers the nagging ‘why’ that may loom even as you are focused on analysing the problem you are trying to solve.

Narrow down to the Small
This is the right time then to try and narrow down to the small. From the big issue of climate change, you need to start thinking about local action for example; what can you start with in the more immediate surroundings. It could be doing more recycling to reduce consumption (say, working for a recycling company), it could be trying to help people reduce their carbon footprint from commuting (say, working for a video conferencing company) and so on. The motivation and the values of the organisations you join may not always reasonate with the ‘need’ and ‘purpose’ you have identified but as long as you can make that connection, you’re good.

Try to distill all of these into specific work roles or potential work positions and list them down properly under the ‘What the world needs?’ header in your own personal worksheet (Download the worksheet here).

This is the fourth part of a multi-part series of writing on Ikigai. The cover article explains why I’m writing this. Read part two and three. Surprise coming up in the next part. Stay tuned.