Case Study - Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Updated: May 19

What is Ikigai? This case study is part of the Ikigai blog series and the result of an interview with someone who combines all of the elements of Ikigai across their personal and work life.



"Ikigai is a concept about living harmoniously, naturally and easily in flow, leading the life you want to lead.


It is about living your life well - the life that makes your heart sing and gives you meaning, purpose and pleasure"







Our Case study - the context


Donna is the owner, leader and manager of a group of Early Years settings in the North of England. Her childhood experience is a key part of Donna’s story. her parents split up when she was 10 years old. This meant that Donna was part of a family, brought up by her single Mum. Donna helped to care for the other children in her family. She knows what challenges and issues there were for her family, relating to vulnerabilities including work, income and housing. Based on her own experiences, Donna has empathy for families who experience vulnerabilities and challenges in life.


When her Mum moved with the other children in the family to a different town, in England, Donna stayed in their original home-town in Wales. She started to make a different life for herself. Donna began work when she was 16 years of age and has a tremendous work-ethic. At this young age, she left the family home and ‘struck out’ on her own, to make a living for herself. She experienced adversity and immediately became an overcomer. Donna has a determination and vibrant attitude that carried her along from one success to another, undertaking baby-sitting, Saturday jobs and child-care roles – leading ultimately to undertaking her Degree in Early Childhood Studies. This led her to become the entrepreneur and business owner that she is today.


Donna exudes passion and enthusiasm for the children and the families that her early years settings serve. She has enormous energy and enthusiasm and seems entirely well placed in this work – it seems to suit her entirely. Following observations of Donna in her daily work, I decided to interview her, in relation to the concept of Ikigai.


Our case Study - the questions


Donna was interviewed by Shared Inspirations' Joan Haines, and these are the questions and responses that reveal the 'Ikigai' nature of how she lives and works.



1. What motivates you to do this work - owning, leading and managing Early Years Settings?


"I always find a way’"


Donna has tremendous drive and determination. She is absolutely clear about her mission in life - her core purpose is to provide the very best education and care for the children and families in her locality. Her vision is to provide high quality inclusive education and care - welcoming all children from the youngest age and ensuring that they are kindly and compassionately included and belonging. Donna is determined – she ‘always finds a way’ and is very resilient and resourceful. Her energy, dedication, commitment, passion and enthusiasm are always evident in Donna’s manner and behaviours. It is important to Donna to ‘make things happen’ and to achieve great things for the children and families.


2. What values do you bring to this work?

"love, kindness, compassion, energy and enthusiasm"


Donna exudes love, kindness, compassion, passion, energy and enthusiasm throughout her daily life and in her daily work. Having experienced challenges in her own childhood family, Donna is very kind, caring and understanding to all children, families and staff. This means that Donna’s early years settings are very popular – children and families want to come and belong.



3. What emotions do you experience at work?


"I laugh and cry with my families"


Donna gives out love, empathy and compassion to the children and families that the early years settings serve. She has laughed and cried with families – showing great empathy for them. The children love being with Donna and are drawn to her ‘like a magnet’ - they love to sit with Donna, experiencing her kindness, when she reads a story to them.



4. What is the outcome you desire from this work?


"I want to make a difference"


The outcome Donna seeks in her daily work is to reach out to the children and families in the locality. Her desired outcome is to welcome them all and to expand to providing for younger children, including babies. Donna desires to ‘make a difference’ for the families, easing pressure on them and working with families to create sustainable change with them.



5. What are you good at in this work?


"creating a vibrant culture of achievement and finding the right person for the job"


Donna has an entrepreneurial spirit. She is a skilled leader and manager and she strives constantly to make a difference for everyone in the settings. There is a sense that Donna has been a leader since she cared for her siblings as a child and since she struck out on her own to make a living aged 16. Donna is an exceptionally good communicator – she includes people in decisions and always seeks to find the ‘right person for the job’ whatever the job in-hand is. This allows other people to be part of the growth and developments in the settings. She relates very well to children, families and staff and there is a real ‘buzz’ of happiness and enjoyment in her early years settings. Through her un-stoppable enthusiasm Donna creates a vibrant culture of achievement and her enthusiasm is infectious. This is a highly skilled professional role, for which Donna is highly qualified, having achieved a BA (Hons) in Early Years Foundation Stage.


I got the sense that this is a work of Donna’s heart and mind and a passion that is like a vocation for her.


What can we learn from this?


Donna’s story shows us how congruent a life she is creating and continuing to create. Everything about Donna in her life and in her work suggests that she is absolutely doing the right things for her and for others – that have meaning, purpose and direction for her and that impact very positively on others in the community.

She has a very strong mission to provide outstanding education and care for the children and families in the locality. She has a clear vision to make this service available to all families and to expand to include babies. Throughout this interview, the energy emitted by Donna as she spoke of her life’s passion to provide for the children and families made me realise that she is indeed fulfilling her Ikigai .

Donna uses her gift of life so creatively and her story is still being written. Every day Donna lives out her Ikigai - she fulfils her passions and dreams whilst extending outwards to children and families to provide the highest quality, outstanding education and care for them.



What can you do to find your Ikigai?

What’s the smallest viable Ikigai experiment you could do that might be a big winner for you?


Read more:



IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, 2016





'How to Ikigai' - A TEDX talk by Tom Tomashiro (YouTube 13 minutes)



Don't delay! Find your Ikigai!


Book a free coaching session with a Shared Inspiration coach who believes in you!