Do This Simple Exercise to Find Your Ikigai

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Many people think that they need to choose between profession and passion – they can’t have both. Otherwise, focusing too much on the latter may not put food on the table. Revolving one’s life around their career alone can contribute to stress and burnout.

In reality, there’s a way to combine both and, ultimately, discover one’s purpose in life. All you need is to follow the principles of ikigai.

What Is Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to “reason for being.” It helps explain why you are doing what you are doing, and it’s often paired with the idea of finding your passion.

Passion-based careers are all well and good, but they might not be the best fit for everyone. Some people have passions that simply cannot translate into money or stability.

Instead of having one clear reason to get up in the morning, some people need multiple motivators to keep going.

Finding your ikigai doesn’t end there. Ideally, your reason for living will help motivate you for each step on your journey toward success. The true secret of ikigai is having that keeps you motivated when things get difficult.

Principles of Ikigai

Ikigai tends to consist of the intersection between four main elements:

  • Vision
  • Passion
  • Mission
  • Profession

The idea behind it began in the Heian period and broadly explains that four pillars define your quality of life:

  • What you love doing (your passion)
  • What the world needs from you (your mission)
  • What you are good at (your profession)
  • How much income your job provides for you (vision)

If all these factors are met, you will find what is called ikigai. For example, you could be working in the medical profession with a passion for art and combine your work/profession with your passion/hobby. This would then help you, not hurt you. It would also fulfill your mission and give meaning to life.

Mission implies purpose. It’s the part where you explain why this job matters so much to you or how it fits into your life vision. Profession implies a skillset. This is about your training, degrees, licenses, etc., more than just your function at work.

Passion reflects things that light us up on an inner level, i.e., it is important to be involved in activities that we enjoy doing and getting energy from them. The vision reflects the impact of your job on the world around you, which can be economic, environmental, educational, etc.

How Do You Find Your Ikigai?

relaxed woman

Just because someone else has an ikigai that doesn’t mean it will be perfect for you as well. Remember that everyone has a unique set of skills and abilities. That said, if you struggle to find yours, you can always engage life coaching services online, which can give you a good head start or even direction.

You can also try the following exercise to help discover your ikigai:

1. Remember a time when you were doing something but stopped because it “just felt right.” These are often signs that there’s something deeper about what you’re doing or why you do it.

2. Look back on the happiest moments in your life. These could be moments spent with others or simply more solitary experiences of deep contentment. What do these memories have in common? A clear goal helps keep things positive even during times where success is not guaranteed. If your happiest moment was getting married, then maybe a career as a wedding planner would be a good fit for you.

3. Think about the things you enjoy doing, both idle fancies and actual activities. Can your ikigai be broken down into just one or two of these? If not, that’s perfectly fine. There are some people who have several reasons for living that wouldn’t translate well into a single career path.

4. Find out what you hate. There are lots of different aspects to this step, but it can help give you an idea of what doesn’t interest you. For example, you could turn up at work in customer service every day only to find yourself wishing for the end of the day, which would be a sign that perhaps this profession is not where your passions lie. This rule can apply to almost any area of life, from your romantic relationships to your daily commute.

If you’ve tried the exercise and still can’t find a common theme, that’s okay! Don’t force yourself into thinking that the only way to live is by following your passions.

Make sure you’re taking care of yourself because it’s hard enough to chase after dreams on an empty stomach. In general, try not to worry too much or get upset if things don’t work out right away.

No one has everything figured out at any point in their life, and while some people have a clear path laid out for them from birth it doesn’t mean everyone does. Doing the exercise, though, repeatedly could lead to an aha moment later.

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