Having recently reread Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” for a book club, we had a lot of discussion about how one goes about finding their purpose.
I’m a Blue Zones fan so I’m aware that having a sense of purpose was one of the “Power Nine,” those aspects of life that help people live longer and healthier.
There are various TED talks that relate to finding your purpose. Oprah has a new book “The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose,” and there are a variety of life and entrepreneurial coaches that have made careers out of teaching people how to do this.
What helped me understand the “how to,” but it’s also the basis for many of the books, Blue Zones, videos and life coaching, is the Japanese idea of “ikigai.” Dating back to at least 794, during the Japanese Heian period, there is no English equivalent to this word. However, it’s often used to describe why you get up in the morning.
The Japanese psychiatrist and author of What Makes Our Life Worth Living (ikigai nit suite) Mieko Kamiya explains, ikigai is similar to “happiness” but has a subtle difference in its nuance. ikigai is what allows you to look forward to the future whatever the way you feel right now. It is what gives you strength, resilience and hope when tragedy occurs. Whatever it may be, it is a source of energy and inner light. Japanese people believe that the sum of small joys in everyday life results in more fulfilling life as a whole. In short, ikigai is both about purpose as well as finding happiness.
The Venn diagram above shows how the convergence of four primary elements result in your ikigai. It’s not about achievement or what other people think, but rather finding the combination that works for you.
What you Love (your passion)
What the World Needs (your mission)
What you are Good at (your vocation)
What you can be rewarded for (your profession)
Unfortunately, most of the ikigai diagrams include what you can be paid for versus what you are rewarded for. If you are retired, or don’t work for other reasons, it’s important that you recognize rewards other than a paycheck.
Interestingly Richard Leider, an executive life coach, has based his practises on ikigai but looks at purpose as more of a calling. Are you using your gifts on things you are passionate about in environments that fit your values? His “A Guide to Unlocking the Power of Purpose can be a helpful tool. It’s free, but since it includes exercises, it’s probably best to print it out..