S2 Ep 37: Wisdom of the World 2: Ikigai & Nunchi

This week, I explore the cool concepts of Ikigai from Japan and Nunchi from Korea… really useful stuff.


Pronunciation: “i-ka-guy”

Ikigai is about striving to find purpose and balance in life. It is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.

Psychologist Michiko Kumano describes Ikigai as eudaimonic well-being, as it “entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment”.

This balance is found at the intersection of four key elements in your life.

  1. Passion – What do you love? 
  2. Vocation – What you are good at?
  3. Profession – What can you get paid to do?
  4. Mission – What does the world need?

How to incorporate ikigai into your work life

Leaders are focused on creating shared value. This implies offering economic value while addressing social needs. Instead of only focusing on the bottom line, they are looking at the broader picture in a bid to create a meaningful impact. Job seekers are finding companies that align with their “ikigai” or life purpose.

Nunchi, (pronounced – noonchi), is a Korean concept signifying the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others’ moods.

In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence.

Nunchi also relies on an understanding of one’s status relative to the person with whom they’re interacting. It can be seen as the embodiment of skills necessary to communicate effectively in high context culture.

Psychics use nunchi to figure people out

Be quick (quick nunchi)

Some people socially unaware (slow nunchi)

Observe a room – your influence on it

Put yourself in their shoes

Observe, Listen, Subtext

What were they doing beforehand?

What do they want? value? fear

How are they feeling?

What do they want to feel? not want to feel?

What is appropriate here?

How will this make people feel?

Other aspects of interest:

Subtext non verbal and preverbal and context

High context… in groups in culture where inferences drawn

Understand status of other people

Manners of others

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