The Ikigai Venn diagram is widely shared. The diagram challenges us to look to the intersection of what we are good at, what the world needs, what we can be paid to do and what we love. Obviously the right answer is in the middle of the pretty flower of overlapping circles. The diagram reduces a great deal of life’s complexity to an elegant picture.

The familiar Ikigai

Any Venn diagram is a selection from all the possible sets and their possible overlaps. Some of those sets like what the world needs and what we love can be hard to map and understand. Presuming we know these is like reading a novel backwards. After all, we expose all of these sets of choices by working and our life experience. It would be much easier if these things were laid out for our careful selection.

A Venn diagram encourages to think about what point we want to be at. However a life or career is a path. Options arise in each moment. We rarely choose one destination. We choose the next step. We can also realise new potential that changes the shape of all the sets. The diagram is pretty but nothing is so simple or fixed about a life.

Reflecting on that diagram this morning, I also saw something I had not considered before. The dark side of Ikigai is just adjacent. Here’s the Anti-Ikigai.

The Anti-Ikigai

If you compare this to the original you will see the top right two sets are the same. Both what you are good at and what you can be paid for are in both and their overlap is a profession. The Anti-Ikigai is just adjacent to the Ikigai. No wonder it is so easy to get lost.

The new diagram introduces two new sets omitted from the first but ever so common in discussion of life and careers. These sets are what brings power and what you can bear. Many will tell you these are critical parts of success in a life or career. We are often told to grin and bear it for a promotion, bonus or other financial reward or new power.

Introducing two new sets bring three new intersections:

  • At the intersection of power and our talents is ambition
  • At the intersection of payment and tolerance is desperation
  • At the intersection of power and tolerance is corruption

All of a sudden it’s not so clear that we want to be at the heart of the pretty flower. Sadly, that’s where many aim to be and feel there is no other choice. This map is directly adjacent to the other as we make choices and discover we can easily wander across into this landscape. With power, aptitude and rewards pushing us forward it can be hard to recognise we are astray. Even more when society reinforces that this is our map.

The sets you see and the parts of those sets you can reveal shape choices both good and bad. Life is a quest to learn, discover and realise potential. There are no easy answers, no matter how pretty the flower. We need to remember that the obstacles are the work. Addressing the challenges before us will help reveal all our options.

2 thoughts on “Anti-Ikigai

  1. The anti-ikigai is not “adjacent”, it is the “dark mirror” image of ikigai… the dark side of you at your worst.

    1. Actually it is adjacent and isn’t a mirror. It overlaps with the other diagram sharing half the sets. I agree it’s dark but the point is how close these choics lie to the other.

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