How to find your purpose in life with Ikigai
Mindset & Personal growth

How to find your purpose in life with Ikigai

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Are you wondering what your purpose is in life? Well, the Ikigai framework is just what you need! In this post, I’ll detail how to find your purpose in life with Ikigai.

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If I asked what your purpose is in life, what your reason for getting up in the morning is, most of us wouldn’t know what to say. We go through life doing what is expected and what we think we should be doing.

We rarely stop and take a moment to really think about what makes us happy, what brings us joy in our day to day lives and essentially, what our purpose in life is. 

Usually, finding your purpose is viewed as a life-long, unattainable quest that we never finish. Something that you strive for but never really end up finding. That you can only have one purpose and you end up searching for it your whole life.

But what if finding your purpose in life and your reason for being wasn’t some far away dream, but something you could work on right now?

Having a sense of purpose in our lives has been shown to increase our life expectancy and improve our quality of life. So what are we waiting for?

That’s where Ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-guy) comes in.

What is Ikigai?

No, it’s not the latest sushi dish 😉 

It’s a Japanese concept that is difficult to translate in english but roughly means your “reason for being” or “the reason you get up in the morning”.

It’s a combination of the Japanese words “iki”, which can be translated to “life,” and “gai”, which is used to describe value or worth.

It’s the pursuit of day to day purpose and a feeling of self-worth.

This concept originated in Okinawa, Japan, an island well-known for the longevity and happiness of its residents. 

A factor that plays an important role in the health and vitality of Okinawans is to have a purpose in their lives (or multiple purposes), their ikigai

If you ask them why they get up in the morning, they have an answer. They don’t hesitate. They know. Their purpose-imbued lives give them drive and feelings of being needed.

Ikigai Venn Diagram

If you search the word Ikigai on the internet, you’ll find a Venn Diagram with four overlapping qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for with Ikigai at the very center of all of the circles.

This Venn Diagram is the Purpose Venn Diagram with Ikigai written in the middle. It’s a westernized version of Ikigai and different from the japanese concept.

The issue I see with this framework is that you can only find your Ikigai and happiness when all 4 areas intersect in the middle. 

Let’s say that you have a hobby, playing the guitar for example, that you love doing but you aren’t making any money from it and the world doesn’t necessarily need it. Does that mean this can’t bring purpose to your life? In my opinion, absolutely not!

The japanese concept of Ikigai lies as much in the little things as in big life goals and achievements. It can be something as simple as enjoying your cup of coffee in the morning or pursuing your greatest goal of becoming the first female president.

Find your purpose in life with Ikigai

How to find your purpose in life with Ikigai?

Ikigai is something private and that belongs to you. Your ikigai will look very different from your neighbor’s ikigai.

The good news, you can find your Ikigai in many different areas in your life. It’s not some all-encompassing life-goal that may take years to work towards. It’s more of a spectrum where you can find joy, purpose and meaning in several aspects of your life.

You can find your Ikigai:

  • in the building of harmonious relationships that align with your values, 
  • when reaching a flow state in your hobbies, interests or work, and by expressing your creative self, 
  • by expressing gratitude, and in the helping of others via your life roles (parent, teacher, friend, colleague…).
  • when being present while performing daily rituals, and in appreciating the small joys of life.

But finding your Ikigai doesn’t happen overnight. It requires you to look within, spend time getting to know yourself, what you value and what you care about. But isn’t that the point anyways?

Here are steps you can take to explore and find your Ikigai:

1. Ask yourself these questions

In his book “Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day, neuroscientist Ken Mogi suggests you ask yourself these (not so simple) questions:

  • What are your core values, what’s most important to you?
  • What are the small things that give you pleasure?

Grab your journal and start writing. Be honest and don’t censure or judge what comes to mind. 

Do this over the course of a few days, whenever something comes to mind. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer!

If you’d like to go deeper, here are additional questions to ponder:

  • What did you like doing when you were a child?
  • What absorbs you so much that you forget to eat and drink?
  • Which activities put a smile on your face and light in your eyes?
  • What is easy for you to do?
  • What are your talents?
  • If you were living in an ideal world, what would it look like?
  • Which values would you like to see more often?

2. Assess your current life

Once you’ve written down your answers and you feel you have a pretty good grasp of what’s important to you, take a look at your life, your daily rituals, what you do with your time.

Write down the different things you do in a day and ask yourself if they are:

  • Bringing you joy?
  • Linked to what you identified in the first step?
  • Adding purpose to your life?

Doing this brings awareness to your current life. It helps identify the areas where you already find joy and purpose and where you can include more.

3. Take action

Now you must decide how you can take action. What are the little things you can add to your daily life that bring more ikigai into your life?

Does this mean that everything you do must be linked to your Ikigai? No! Your Ikigai might be found in your hobby, in the relationships you build, in the work that you do or a combination of all of these.

For me, studying ikigai has enabled me to change the way I start my day. 

Once I mapped out my values and understood what brings a smile to my face, I looked at where I could include them in my daily routine. I decided I wanted to start my day by doing what matters to me first. I wanted to prioritize what gives me purpose and a sense of accomplishment. I now dedicate my morning routine to doing yoga, journaling while enjoying my latte and writing for this blog. This enables me to do things that bring me my Ikigai first thing each day. 

4. Do it again

Your ikigai can and will change as you grow and evolve. So, it’s important to do a gut check on a regular basis. 

Ask yourself if what you’re doing is still filling you with a sense of purpose. Does it still bring joy? Does it feel right? 

Go through the first 3 steps and allow yourself to make adjustments along the way.

5 pillars of Ikigai

In his book, Ken Mogi refers to the 5 pillars of ikigai which allows ikigai to flourish and can help you in your journey:

Pillar 1: Starting small

Every step counts, even the smallest one.

Pillar 2: Releasing yourself

Accept yourself and let go of the ego. As Ken puts it’s “a low-budget, maintenance-free formula for being happy.”

Pillar 3: Harmony and sustainability

We live in an ecosystem where everyone and everything is connected. Try being mindful of the impact your actions might have on society at large and on the planet.

Pillar 4: The joy of little things

A ray of sunshine, a cup of tea, the light breeze in the trees. It’s the little things that make a difference. Appreciating them and acknowledging them is the key to finding your ikigai.

Pillar 5: Being in the here and now

Be absorbed in what you’re doing rather than by the result. Appreciate the moment.

Following these 5 pillars will help you discover and understand your ikigai.

There you have it, 4 steps to find your purpose in life with Ikigai!

Now it’s up to you to find your purpose in life with ikigai! I’d love to know what you’ve found along the way so let me know in the comments!

Till next time,

XO, Calie

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