What is your life's purpose?

What is your life’s purpose? Harriet Sneath, WoWWizard of Training reveals the 4 components of ikigai (eeky-guy) and how understanding them can pave the way to a happier, more purposeful life…


Have you ever pondered what your purpose in life is and how you can reach the optimum level of blissful contentment? I suspect we’ve all given it some thought but how many of us have figured out what makes us genuinely happy and subsequently achieved it? My quest for answers about my own life’s purpose has led me to discover the Japanese construct of ikigai and what a revelation it has been.

What is ikigai?

Translated from the Japanese, ikigai literally means life’s purpose. It is a treasure map to finding out how amazing life can be just by investigating what really drives us. This Japanese philosophy dates back to 1185 and hails from the island of Okinawa, where Interestingly, there is the highest proportion of people over 100 years old per capita than any other country in the world. Ikigai plays a key role in this. Tim Tamashiro explains it beautifully in this Ted Talk. Let’s delve a little deeper into understanding ikigai with this diagram:

I thought I had life sussed, but this simple concept made me realise that parts of my own ikigai were missing. The simplicity of this model quickly highlights where we have gaps in our ikigai. For example, so many of us love what we do and are good at it but are not earning a decent living or benefitting the wider world. Conversely, there are people who are paid generously and whose work is valuable but they are not happy or passionate about what they do. Then there are those who have embraced ikigai; these people ooze passion and skill for their craft, earn a decent living and are content with their lives.  

A beginner's guide to finding your ikigai:

1. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What do I love doing most?
  • Am I absorbed in my current work?
  • Do I have an emotional connection to my work results?
  • Are there parts of my job that come easily to me?
  • Am I an expert in my field?
  • In 100 years, will my work still be as valuable?
  • Does my work solve social, economic, or environmental problems?
  • Do I make a living doing what I do?

If you answered yes to all of these, congratulations, you’re well on your way to ikigai. If you’ve some no’s, don’t worry, keep reading.

2. Have a mini brainstorm:

  • Visualise your ideal day from start to finish and write it down
  • Think about what makes you feel good, what you are doing, who you spend time with
  • Think about the questions you answered no to
  • What changes could you make to get them to a yes? For example, if you feel no emotional connection to your work results, is it because you don’t work with your team face to face?
  • If you’ve passion for what you do but are lacking skills, could you take a course?

3. Work to find your ikigai:

  • Now you’ve a picture in your head about your ideal workday, you may consider hiring a mentor or a coach to help bring your vision to life.  
  • Try new hobbies out that align with your passions
  • Don’t be afraid to admit that something isn’t working for you  
  • Keep trying steps 1-3 and experimenting until you find what speaks to you

Ikigai is not a quick life hack, it requires self-exploration, reflection, and determination. Self-doubting thoughts and negativity need to be banished from your thinking in order to find your ikigai. Once you’ve found your ikigai it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically love all aspects of your work. It means you are more willing to accept the not-so-perfect parts as you are aligned with what you love, what you’re paid for and what the world needs.

For some, ikigai cannot be found in our job description; but the way we approach our work can be adapted in order to get closer to our ikigai. For example, you could introduce things you are passionate about to your colleagues, to help broaden and influence their thinking.

Ikigai is about feeling joy in our life’s work. If we can create just a little joy everyday, we will have a lifetime of it. Ikigai is not a full-time commitment but a series of baby steps aimed at achieving those pockets of joy.  

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