Ikigai: Finding Your Purpose in Life

I talk to my client a lot about ikigai (“iki-guy”),  a Japanese word for “a reason for being.” It is your search for self. What brings you satisfaction?  What is your purpose in life?

It is the intersection of what you love to do, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for doing. It’s where your passion, mission, your vocation and your profession all come together.

Some of my clients come to me and they aren’t sure what their expertise is. I ask them these questions:

  • What are some things that would get you excited to get out of bed?
  • What excites you so much that you can’t wait to begin your day?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • Tell me what you dream about. What is the voodoo that you do so well?
  • What did you want to when you were growing up?
  • What do you believe you were born for?
  • What are you here to fix? The world is beautiful, but it does need fixing.

Sometimes we have to dig further into why they think they can’t do something. Maybe they began to believe what people told them about not pursuing a career choice. They told themselves they better not take the road less traveled. The world has changed its mind about a career they wanted to pursue

Here are three activities you can do to uncover your ikigai:

Activity 1

You need to make three lists:

  1. Your values: What are the things you value the most? 
  2. What do you like to do? Sing, write, move, numbers? What is it?
  3. What are you really good at? I know what it is for me. I can write and create, but I am not good at numbers. Thankfully, my husband and sons are good with numbers.

We all have to ask ourselves these questions. We don’t need to go out and quit our jobs, but we don’t need to settle for what everyone expects us to do. We can entertain the idea of changing the world with our gifts and talents. 

Activity 2

Write down five different things that are your dream jobs. Maybe it is giving dance or guitar lessons. Writing a book. Opening an Etsy shop. Circle the No. 1 thing you know is the right thing for you to do.

Activity 3

Write “If I didn’t have to be perfect, I would do _____” and fill in the blank. When you look at it in black and white, you realize how crazy it looks that you have to do something perfectly or you aren’t going to do it. Perfection is unattainable.

I love the movie “We Bought a Zoo.” The main character played by Matt Damon says, “ Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

I believe when we ask ourselves what our ikigai is and we ask, “Do I have 20 seconds of bravery?” and “Can I do this?”  something great is going to come from it.

“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”Click To Tweet

In the “Dead Poet’s Society,” there is a great line: “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” Don’t cut yourself short. Try to find what your ikigai what. Where do your passion, mission, vocation and profession overlap? That can give you clues to what your ikigai is.


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