Ikigai – Revisiting the Why of Eye Care

After publishing our e-book: Kaizen and The Practice of Eye Care, we received an email response from a California Optometrist who was already familiar with Kaizen; this doctor suggested that I look into another Japanese philosophical precept, Ikigai.

Where Kaizen is comprised of Kai and Zen meaning change and good respectively; Ikigai is comprised of Iki and Gai meaning Life and Worth respectively. In essence, to find one’s Ikigai is to find their reason for being, your raison d’etre. According to adherents of Ikigai, it can be described as the nexus between what one loves, what one is good at, what the world needs, and what one can be rewarded for doing.

One of the great pleasures of working in this field is that  optometrists typically have a ceaseless passion for helping their patients see the world more clearly, and helping them in other ways as well. As I wrote this blog post, I got a social media notification on my phone that took me to a highly active OD forum. Dr. Michelle Darnell of Lilac Family Vision Center posted this:

“[A patient] told me that she wanted to work in the field for a year, then apply to OD school. I gave her the name of the office manager at my favorite local surgery center & told her she should inquire as to if they were hiring. [S]he got a job at the surgery center as a tech. They are teaching her not just how to do testing, but why, and she’s absolutely loving it. She was just radiating happiness in my office. I love helping people be successful, and I know she will work hard, and will make a wonderful doctor one day.”

To me, this is the essence of Ikigai. Dr. Darnell’s reason for being is to help others see and be successful. It’s an incredible reminder of how fortunate we are in this industry to do what we do. How we can do what we love, do what the world needs, do what we’re good at, and be rewarded for that in every way that matters.


Steve Alexander

Steve Alexander is an experienced optician and consultant to eye care practices across the US. In every circumstance, he likes to take the perspective of a given practice and understand the pitfalls, opportunities, and likely outcomes before recommending a particular course of action. Kaizen is something that he subscribes to in both his personal and professional life, seeking to improve in some aspect of his development every day. Since learning of it, he is now in search of his Ikigai.