“What is my purpose in life?” This is probably one of the biggest questions you can ask.
And I’m sure you must have thought about it at least once in your life.
The term Ikigai (or ikegai for some ) embodies this very concept.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese word that translates to “reason for being”.
From what I normally see, most people do work that they “have” to do, not what they “want” to do.
Either they haven’t found their Ikigai yet or they haven’t even started looking.
Well, I can’t tell you how important it is to find your reason for waking up in the morning. It’s one of the best ways to live a more fulfilling life and be truly happy.
The important thing to remember is that everyone’s Ikigai is different.
It depends on who you are as a person, your preferences, your values, and so on.
What helps people find their Ikigai is exploring the four quadrants of things that you can do and then find common ground.
Let’s talk about these in more detail and fill in each quadrant or circle step by step.
Step 1: Things You Love
I am sure each one of you has a handful of things that you just love to do.
There is no rhyme or reason for why you enjoy doing these things… you just do!
It can be something you discovered in your childhood or it can be something you found later on in life.
The thing is, while choosing their career path or field of study, most people tend to choose what is convenient or what others are choosing.
Have you ever seen this happening?
I am sure you have.
In fact, I’m sure that some of you reading this might have done the same. This is especially the case when you’re younger and you don’t know any better.
However, you can always make a conscious choice to turn your life around.
If you want to find your purpose, you need to sit down and first list all the things that you really love.
It could literally be anything. At this point, you just have to list out anything that comes to mind. Don’t censor yourself, this a a brainstorming game.
You need to be honest and non judgmental.
Take your time too. You don’t need to finish this list today. You can take a few days if you need to.
If you have trouble figuring it out, ask yourself :
- “What did I love when I was a child?”,
- “What had I aspired to become due to my love for it?”
- “What activities do you like to do during your free time that truly make you happy?”
If you need inspiration or the courage to pursue what you love, I would suggest watching videos of Steve Jobs. That guy was all about doing what he loved. His love for technology and art is the reason Apple even exists today. It is also the reason why Pixar is what it is today.
Look, the concept is simple. When you do something that you love, you put your heart and soul into it. And that shows!
Step 2: Things You Are Good At
I have always firmly believed that every single person on the planet has at least one thing that they are good at.
In other words, everyone has their own unique talent or multiple talents.
You might be able to sing well or dance well. Perhaps you are a natural at playing guitar. Or maybe you can make a killer painting that people can’t take their eyes off of.
But what I often see is that people don’t take their talents seriously.
They underestimate them and think of them as “just something I can do”. At most, they might showcase these talents at a party just for the sake of fun.
Imagine if Celine Dion or Michael Jackson had done so. Imagine if Ronaldo had done so. It’s time that you take your abilities seriously. You never know the kind of fire that can be ignited with just a small spark of inspiration.
Thus, the second step to finding your Ikigai is to note down everything that you can do well.
It can be something that you have a natural knack for, or it might be something that you learned from your training or experience.
Ask yourself what your skills are or what assistance people seek from you generally?
You can also ask your friends and family for more insights into your abilities. Don’t underestimate anything.
Simply write down whatever comes to mind.
3) Things The World Needs
This is something that most people don’t think about that much.
I know, it’s not flattering to say but it’s the truth.
When we think about building a career or choosing a line of study, we often get tunnel vision where we are only concerned about our own self. It seldom happens that we pay heed to the impact we will have on other people/our community.
However, we live in an inter-connected world.
The actions of one can affect the other directly or indirectly.
For instance, you never know what your words of inspiration can do for someone. Maybe they could get motivated to finally start their business which ends up providing jobs to tens of people!
Now imagine the effects that these people will have on their family and friends. Every person can initiate a snowball effect.
This is why this quadrant is highly important in the concept of Ikigai.
It makes you think about your actions in more detail and also allows you to examine how they will affect those around you. From this, you can start to understand whether you want to pursue something or not. It will help you filter some stuff out and add some new ones in.
If you have trouble adding things to this quadrant, you can simply look around and ask yourself, “What does the world need right now?”
More peace, more fun, anything?
Maybe you want to see a change in the status quo in society. Or maybe something angers you and you just want to change it for the better. You might also have a vision of how something should be that can positively impact the community.
List all these things. ( once again, don’t set any limitations…. It is a free writing activity. No judgement here. Ever.)
4) Things You Can Be Paid For
This is the final quadrant and might I add, one of the most important.
We live in a world where you have to make money to survive.
Even if you don’t want to be ultra-rich, you need money to at least feed yourself, ensure a roof over your head and some clothes on your body. It also helps if you can grow some savings for the rainy days of life.
And by the way, it is completely fine if being rich is something you desire. Many people love the art of making money and frankly, most people won’t mind having a healthy stash of cash lying around for them to use for whatever they wanted.
If you want the same, this could be your own unique Ikigai.
Anyway, filling up items on this list can take a while.
So it is completely fine to take some time and really think it through. After all, money-making ideas might be more difficult than figuring out what you love.
You might have to think from many different angles and consider a plethora of facts and situations.
One of the best ways to figure out things you can be paid for is by asking yourself, “What work can I do?” or “What products or services can I sell?”
I am sure you can figure out something or the other that can make you some money. If you can’t, it’s best to brainstorm with your family or friends. They could be great to bounce ideas off of.
Final step 5 : Finding A Common Ground
Now comes the final step to finding your Ikigai.
Once you have all the four quadrants filled, you need to find common ground.
See what things are common across your four lists.
If you don’t have something that is common, you can continue to add items to your four circles.
The ones that are common to all 4 circles or quadrants can be your Ikigai, which is in the intersection area of all the 4 circles.
It only makes sense, doesn’t it?
Another cool thing you will discover is that what abaut things that are in the intersection of only 2 circles.
- the things that overlap between “what you love to do” and “what you can do well” are perfect candidates to be your passion in life.
- the things that overlap between ” what you love to do” and “what the world needs” could be your mission in life.
- the things that overlap between ” what the world needs” and ” what you can be paid for” can be your vocation in life.
- the things that overlap between “what you can be paid for” and “what you are good at” can be your profession in life.
And what about the things that belong to 3 circles?
- if you ticked everything except the circle of “what the world needs”, you could feel useless…..
- if you ticked everything except the circle of ” what you can be paid for”, you could have issues with money in the long run.
- if you ticked everything except the circle of ” what you love”, you could feel a bit empty
- if you ticked verything except the circle of ” what you are good at”, you could maybe feel a sense of uncertainty, a feel of frustration of not having the necessary skills.
Let’s take a simple example:
For instance, you love playing the guitar. You are also great at it. With your music, you hope to provide entertainment to people in a world that is filled with stress. And, people are ready to pay you for your musical talent.
In this case, playing guitar has checked all your four circles.
This is what your Ikigai is and you should pursue it with all your might.
of course let’s be clear, it is not always as simple as that.
Most of the time we are far from reaching our ikigai but at least with this ikigai diagram and this 5 step exercise, you can gradually find a better picture of your purpose in life and lead a happier life.
We all have this one short life to live. Do you really want to waste it doing something that you don’t even want to do?
Don’t your dreams and passions deserve a chance?
Wouldn’t you like to know your purpose in life?
When you grow old, you will definitely look back at your life and everything you did.
Now, whether it is pride or regret that you will feel, depends on what you do now!