How to Find Your Ikigai and Live With Purpose

We all have a dream life lurking inside of us that provides a sense of meaning and fulfillment. But sometimes in the rush to learn more, earn more, climb the ladder or settle down and do the family thing we’re told to do, we can lose sight of what truly inspires us. 

Ikigai is a Japanese concept around finding our purpose in life. Living with purpose is said to be their secret to a long and happy life. Here’s how you can find yours.

The real reason you get up in the morning

Roughly translated, ikigai means ‘the reason for which you get up in the morning’. It’s maintaining a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical. 

Longevity expert, Dan Buettner, studied a village in Okinawa, Japan that has one of the highest proportions of centenarians in the world. He surmised that, in addition to a healthy diet, knowing their purpose is one of the contributing factors to their longevity. For some Okinawans, that’s as simple as waking up to cuddle their great-great-great grandchild. 

We lost our way

Once upon a time we completed a rite of passage to find our purpose, however these days, life looks different. Generally speaking, society tends to use wealth and status to measure ‘success’. Who has the shiniest car or the fanciest job title or the biggest house? 

Accumulating wealth and knowledge became the goal but in chasing that, we end up deemphasising the activities that don’t help us reach that goal. More hours in the office means less hours with loved ones at home, or less hours spent in nature, or less time exploring our creativity and enjoying the arts = less time feeling fulfilled.

How to find your ikigai

Finding your ikigai will mean reconnecting with, or identifying your values, passions and what you’re good at. It might require a deep long search within yourself and a bit of trial and error. What it will look like, however, is that instead of pursuing wealth and status above all else, you’ll focus on the activities that bring a sense of joy, meaning and fulfillment to your life. 

If you can find a way to make a living from your calling – then, great! But the true sense of ikigai is more often used to refer to the mental and physical state beyond our circumstance. It could simply mean you excel at a hobby.

Start here

  1. Make lists of;
  • things you value,
  • what you enjoy doing, and
  • what you’re good at

Say one of your values might be kindness or connection – establishing meaningful connections with people who’re important to you. Or perhaps it’s deepening your connection with nature – more forest bathing anyone? Work through the lists and the cross-section of all three will be your ikigai.

  1. Keep your ikigai visible at all times

Note it in the front of your journal, on your home-office whiteboard or on your phone’s home screen. This daily reminder keeps you working towards the stuff that most matters to you.

  1. Start doing

Now that you can see your purpose, you can start working towards it. This might require some trial and error, but it’s unlikely you’ll find what you enjoy if you don’t also discover your joy-killer along the way. Start small and see where it takes you.

Remember, there’s a difference between the things that are important in your life and the work or career you establish. Try reconnecting with your purpose and enjoy a more balanced and meaningful life. 


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