An Integrated Cognitive-Motivational Model of Ikigai (Purpose in Life) in the Workplace


  • Mégane Sartore
  • Stéphanie Buisine
  • Ioana Ocnarescu
  • Louis-Romain Joly


In the Japanese philosophy of life, ‘ikigai’ broadly refers to having a ‘reason for living’, or a purpose in life. From a phenomenological and empirical viewpoint, ikigai is reported to increase human well-being and even life expectancy. However, it remains difficult to translate, define and formalize with regard to contemporary psychological theories. In this respect, the aim of this paper is twofold: to capture as accurately as possible what ikigai is, and to examine whether the concept applies to a professional context. We first offer a comprehensive overview of ikigai, bridge the gap between this specific body of literature and related psychological theoretical frameworks, such as those addressing motivation, well-being, and attention. On this basis, we conceptualize an integrated cognitive-motivational model of ikigai using an IPO (Input-Process-Output) framework: we organize dispositional or situational factors supposedly supporting ikigai as inputs, fueling the core process of ikigai (mainly built from motivational and attentional mechanisms), which produce outcomes (including well-being). A feedback loop completes the model and allows the process to maintain over time. This conceptual proposal is a first step towards applying and testing the model in professional contexts, in order to renew our approach of engagement, well-being, and performance at work as well as inspire workplace evolution.