Living a good life: Finding your own purpose with Ikigai

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that describes one’s reason for being–the sweet spot wherein what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs all overlap and work harmoniously together. While one’s personal Ikigai does not need to have all of these concepts or ideas at the same time or in equal measure, it can be used as a starting point in order to identify your values and what you can do to achieve true and meaningful purpose. If you are wondering how you might be able to improve your life, this concept can help you identify and work towards finding your true purpose.

While there is no clear guide on how to find your purpose, it is something we are all likely to find interesting. And so, what are some good first steps to work towards it? Identifying the things we love, care about, and hold dear to us is an important piece of the puzzle: reflect on what matters to you and what you want in your life. What would make you happy? What would contribute to you feeling good about the life you lead? You can also visualize your ideal life and ideal you–what does it look like? Do you want a career that you don’t currently have? Do you want more love or time for your hobbies?

Knowing what you like about your life now and what you think is missing can help you identify and shape your purpose. Knowing your own purpose can help you increase your self-worth, fulfillment, and happiness, and can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It allows you to prioritize what you love, reduce your anxiety and stress over obstacles in life, and help you avoid catastrophizing the mistakes and problems you endure because you know that your purpose lies beyond it. Knowing and valuing your purpose can be deeply personal, gratifying, and a pivotal change in your life towards a more peaceful and happy sense of being.

While understanding and knowing your Ikigai can be incredible, do not put too much pressure on yourself. A common pitfall for us all is the comparison game (“How come everyone around me feels accomplished and has their life figured out and I don’t?”). Identifying your purpose takes time and effort! Take the time to figure it out–adjusting and searching is part of the process.

You can also work to find purpose in the everyday and not assign so much weight to it all, as that can be overwhelming and overbearing. If we think everything we do must be in service of our purpose, we run the risk of not enjoying the mundane or simple things, and feeling guilty that we’re not our perfect, stellar selves at all times. Your purpose should be a sense of liberation, not constraint. While it’s wonderful to know what our purpose is, it is equally wonderful to enjoy the changes that life brings, the simplicity of everyday tasks, and the understanding that we are fluid beings that adapt. Our purpose in life can adapt alongside it.

–Nazila Tolooei
From Share&Care Summer 2024

Click here for references