Finding your ikigai, the secret to your true life purpose

Finding your ikigai, the secret to your true life purpose

Many accept that pursuing an interesting career, making a living, achieving whatever we define as success, fulfilling our personal desires and dreams are completely separate (or even mutually exclusive) endeavours.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A clear and defined ikigai could be the common thread that ties all of these things together.

Not only could an ikigai help you balance these in your day-to-day life, but it could instil a sense of harmony across your routine and lifestyle, bringing meaning to even the most banal of your tasks.

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese term that loosely translates to “reason for being”. It refers to the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.

As seen in the Venn diagram above, your ikigai lies at the intersection between four interdependent elements:

  • What you love (your passion)
  • What the world needs (your mission)
  • What you are good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get paid for (your profession)

Let’s break these down a little further.

1. Passion

What inspires you?

Forget the worries that plague your day-to-day and cloud your vision of the world. Picture this: money is no object, the opinions of others are irrelevant, and you can spend your time and energy on whatever excites you most. Explore the depth and scope of this passion. Distributing this across your commitments could enable you to enjoy an equally profound feeling of enthusiasm at work and in your downtime.


2. Mission

What makes you feel useful?

There is a special kind of satisfaction that comes from being able to make a difference in the world. Making a valuable contribution to something is admirable from a social, moral, and humanitarian standpoint. You don’t have to believe that you were “put on this Earth” to accomplish something in particular. But we all have it within us to share and give to the world around us.


3. Vocation

What are you drawn to?

The very word ‘vocation’ is derived from the Latin vocatio, meaning ‘call’ (i.e. your ‘calling’). It refers to what you feel especially suited to, given your abilities, qualifications, experience, and personality.


4. Profession

What activities do you find most productive and fruitful?

This is the aspect that is specifically what you are paid for, and what is commonly understood as your primary (if not sole) source of income. But from a more meaningful perspective, your chosen profession should be the outcome of all of the aforementioned aspects.

Ultimately, the best approach to take with all of these 4 categories is a holistic one. Making the most of your purpose, or ikigai, requires a sense of motivation, self-awareness, and enthusiasm across your passion, mission, vocation, and profession.

As with many other Oriental Asian concepts, ikigai is best understood together with concepts such as mindfulness and introspection. The Oriental Asian philosophy teaches us that a crucial part of life is understanding the self. It should be a never-ending process, as the self is ever-changing and elusive by nature.

When you unveil your inner ikigai, you establish a kind of symbiosis between the parts that make up the self – everything that makes you you, in all your glorious individuality!

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