Ikigai - 7 Tips for Finding Your Purpose in Life
How to find your life purpose, enjoy work and get paid
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In today’s world, you often hear people talking about the need to have a purpose, a reason for being. This desire to be on a purposeful journey, seems to be becoming the driving force for so many people. Particularly the younger generations; generation X, Y, Z and the Alpha Generation. They don’t just want the house, the car, the 9-5 job. They want to identify that thing within that makes them get up every day and do what they do.
This isn’t a new idea, psychologists have researched this concept for decades and it is present in cultures worldwide, such as the Japanese concept, Ikigai.
Ikigai is a Japanese term meaning “A reason for being”. It’s the concept of identifying something that gives you a sense of purpose, or a reason for living, aka your purpose in life. Unlike some theories, the great thing about Ikigai is that it’s not just about passion; being able to make money and being rewarded are also key features.
As you can see the diagram is made up of four key parts. To find your Ikigai – your purpose in life – you need to think deeply about these. Let’s take a look at the different parts of the diagram and what they mean.
What you love
Let’s start at the top, ‘what you love’. Think about this. What is it that you enjoy doing? If someone was to ask you today, ‘what is it that you are passion about’, what would you say? Is it football, fashion, poetry, reading, animals? You might be sat their thinking, I’m not really into anything.
So let's ask the question a different way. If you completely remove money from the equation and could do anything for the rest of your life, what would you do? It could be anything... be a footballer, an award-winning actress, a full time parent, a doctor, an artist, anything. Clear your mind and think, what would you do?
You will have something whether it is big or small.
What the world needs
Next, is ‘what the world needs’. This is a huge question, with so many different answers. You could break it down to think about what the planet needs versus what people need. You can go incredibly deep with this. Do people need hope, happiness, healing? As the world begins to recover from a global pandemic what do we need? Following the recent report on climate change, what does the world need?
The world and humanity will always need something. Think about what matters to you and start there. You don’t have to go super serious, think about simple things like making people laugh, good food, something to believe in, music.
Nothing is off the table.
What you're good at (skills)
Next, we move onto, ‘What you are good at’. You’re not allowed to say “I’m not good at anything”. Everyone is good at something. It doesn’t have to be a physical talent. Start simple. Perhaps you’re good at making people laugh. Perhaps you’re good at listening to your friends when they need to vent. Perhaps you’re good at finding a bargain. Perhaps you are good at throwing last minute tasty meals together. We don’t often sit and think about the things we are good at. We’re more likely to tear ourselves down thinking about the things we aren’t good at or comparing our skills, to skills desired in most corporate spaces.
A good tip is to ask your friends and family what they think you are good at, as they will spot things you’ve never even thought of.
What you can be paid for (money)
Finally, we have, ‘What you can be paid for”. If you’re naturally a funny person, who can make people laugh with your quick one-liners, like: A ghost walked into a bar and ordered a shot of vodka. The bartender said, “Sorry, we don’t serve spirits here.”, then you’re a comedian in the making (we better just stick to debt).
If you’re a warm and approachable person, who loves listening to people’s problems and helping them, you could be destined to be a counsellor. If you love shopping and have an eye for fashion, that’s how personal shoppers and stylists are born.
List what you are good at and think about the different ways in which you could be paid.
Your reason for being
When brought together these four strands make up your reason for being and identify what will give you a sense of fulfilment. It's hard to bring it all together, so examples always help...
Let’s say you love tennis. The world needs entertainment and tennis is a huge sport. There’s one problem, you’re not good at it. We can pretty much guarantee your purpose in life is not to be a tennis player. Yes, you can get enjoyment from playing tennis but it’s not going to create wealth for you. You might even start to fall out of love with it if you try to play at a higher level and fail.
Another example could be you're amazing with computers and you have the skillset to make a fantastic computer engineer. The money is great and you’d be sought after globally. Again, there is a problem. You have no love for being a computer engineer, leaving you unfulfilled.
You need to love what you do.
The Real Debt Guy
Finding your Ikigai
Finally, here’s a real-life example of a guy who was working hard in IT sales. He knew nothing about IT, absolutely nothing. All he knew is that he didn’t want a job that restricted his earnings. He wanted access to uncapped earnings via commission. He was absolutely smashing it from a young age, but as he started to get older, his job started to get him down. Going to work was a daily grind. Surely this wasn’t his purpose in life? Selling IT solutions just didn’t do it for him even though the money was great.
What he really enjoyed was meeting people, building relationships and learning about them. He was losing his mind doing this job. He decided to quit and set up his own businesses which he did. Gradually he started to feel a bit better, but the real fulfilment started when he began learning about debt, how banks and debt collectors work and how to deal with them. Did we just give it away?! (Yes, it’s about someone very close to us).
After getting under the skin of how the system worked, he began using his knowledge to help people. He experienced taking someone from tears of despair, to tears of joy and it gave him a feeling like no other. He might have been earning less but he loved helping people and making people's lives better. He was being paid for what he did, the world needed what he had to offer and he was very good at it. He finally felt fulfilled for the first time in his life he found his Ikigai.
What order should I follow Ikigai
Now to give this a go yourself, work through the Ikigai in the following order:
- What do you love?
- Are you good at it?
- Does the world need it?
- How can you earn money from it?
Don’t let money be the driving force behind what you love. If you’re thinking about money first, it’s not your love. Challenge yourself. Would you happily do the thing you love for free forever, if you did not need an income?
Now, add another layer to that question....
What is the thing you love, that you are good at, that you would happily do for free forever?
Now challenge that thing.
What does it bring to the world? How does it positively affect another person? To bring true fulfilment it should never just be about you. We have a duty not just to ourselves but to other people.
Finally, how can you earn from it?
Follow this process to get one step closer to discovering your purpose in life, your Ikigai.