IKIGAI And How To Find Your Purpose #1

by | Jan 26, 2024 | Personal Development

Purpose is that eternal search for the one thing that is supposed to help you find meaning and confirm why you are on this strange planet.

Humans (that’s me and you), by nature, want to understand and make sense of their existence, experiences, and the world around them. The search for meaning is fundamentally rooted in our need to comprehend our place in the universe, relate to our existence, and derive purpose from our actions and relationships. This quest (because that’s what it can feel like) is driven by a combination of existential curiosity and a desire for significance.

I doubt for one moment my dogs care about finding purpose. Marley’s quest is for more food, and Angel’s is the freedom to run around as often as possible. What a life!

The search for meaning can sometimes disrupt the enjoyment of life when it becomes obsessive or when we are unable to find satisfactory answers to our existential queries or is that angst.

I must confess that I have spent much of my life wondering what my purpose is. I wondered why I chose planet Earth and all of the horrible things that have happened to me, others, animals and the planet itself.

In this pondering, I have got my knickers in a twist. For some, this perpetual quest can lead to feelings of anxiety, discontent, and even despair as they struggle with unanswered questions and the inherent uncertainties of life.

I’ll admit to feeling pretty naffed off that the purposes I settled on didn’t really materialise… Or did they?

I know that my soul’s purpose is to heal. So, thank you, soul for all of the healing experiences I am sure I could have done without.

But having dissed purpose, I have to say that after my external and often fruitless search, I feel that I am here to enjoy the present and experience joy, connection, and contentment that life has to offer.

It sounds rather bland, doesn’t it?

This constant yearning for something ‘more’ or ‘greater’ can detract from the ability to be present in the moment and to find contentment in the ‘here and now’.

What Purpose Really Means and Where It Is Found

Purpose, in a broad sense, refers to a sense of direction and intentionality in life. It implies a commitment to certain goals, values, or endeavours, and it often provides a framework for decision-making and behaviour.

Purpose is subjective; what provides a sense of meaning and purpose for one person may not do so for another. This means it is a personal and ongoing discovery that evolves over time. Hence the frustration.

People ‘find’ purpose in a myriad of ways, such as through relationships, work, learning, creativity, altruism, and spiritual pursuits. However, purpose is not an external entity waiting to be discovered. I feel that it comes from within. It’s not something anyone can give you, and you do not need anyone to validate what you determine it to be.

It arises from the interaction between your heart’s desires, values, passions, talents, and the opportunities available to enjoy this incarnation.

Okay, that’s the preamble and some initial thoughts. Let’s meet IKIGAI, which I do rather love as a tool to explore purpose.


IKIGAI. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? No doubt you’ve heard of it and or seen the four-circle diagram. As a lover of concepts and processes, as well as the free flow of creativity, I latched onto this as soon as I discovered it.

The four-circle diagram that we often see is not the original Ikigai either, but something modified by another coach circa 2014. Still, I can’t complain because to make it make sense to me, I, too, have modified it…


I was disappointed in my search to find the real purpose and meaning behind it because the coaches who tried to teach it to me couldn’t really explain it in a way that made sense to me.

  • Was it about finding something in life that had purpose and meaning?
  • Was it about why we were on Earth, learning our lessons and doing something with those lessons, or finding meaningful work? When I say work, I mean the work you were put on this Earth to do.
  • Was it just ONE thing that I was here to do?

I was already familiar with Jim Collins From Good To Great Hedgehog concept. Which at the time of learning, it was all about work. The three questions asked were:

  • What you are deeply passionate about?
  • What you can be the best in the world at?
  • What best drives your economic or resource engine?

He said that it was understanding what you can be the best at. So, focusing on ONE thing right now that you CAN be the best at.

I like that – focus on ONE thing that you can be the best at right now.

Ikigai asks four questions, adding in the PAID aspect:

  • What do you LOVE?
  • What are you GOOD at?
  • What does the world NEED?
  • What can you be PAID for?

And where these intersect is no longer a hedgehog but an Ikigai. And the way that most people look at this again is in the context of work.

Are we born for work? It seems that is what we spend our lives doing.

From a biological perspective, humans are born to survive, reproduce, and ensure the continuation of our species. In this view, work can be seen as a means to secure resources needed for survival and well-being.

And to make sure you can ‘live’, one does need to do work of some kind.

What if you did ‘work’ that was meaningful, gave your life purpose and a reason for being? Chances are that even when you retire, you will still be doing it. I know for sure I’ll still be writing. Writing has saved my life, and I would like to think that I will still be journaling and writing books to entertain others until I head back to the soul place.

Work gives people an identity, and we humans like that. I am a writer, an artist, a marketer, a project manager, a fundraiser, etc.

Work might mean something different to you, but most people see it as a means to obtain money to pay for things. If we are able to feel that this gave us purpose, then we are onto a winner.

What does Ikigai even mean?

Like many Japanese words, there isn’t a direct translation into English, which I love as it gives us all room to decide for ourselves what it means to us.

Iki is life, and the simplest translation of gai is value or worth.

The value or worth you place on life could be one way to look at it. What makes you happy or brings you joy is another way. Think about all of the little things that come together to give your life meaning.

This could be your work (whatever that means to you), your family, hobbies, your spiritual life, or things you do for the greater good.

Having a life of worth and value is great, but humans are wired for connection, and Ikigai needs somewhere for the energy to flow. That purpose is being of service to your community (family, friends, tribe, customers, animals, Mother Earth, etc.).

Some people hate the word service, and if that’s you, think of it as sharing your gifts or your heart. Ikigai gives you a purpose because you share your gifts and are making a difference in other’s lives (what the world needs).

The most confusing aspect of the model was the idea of what you can be paid for if Ikigai was about life value or life purpose. But paid can be translated in many ways. It might mean money, a reward, impact, happiness, fulfilment or how you invested your time or heart.

Is Ikigai about having ONE life purpose?

I don’t think so. I believe that we come to Earth to learn our lessons, heal our souls and discover the gifts we share with others.

We have many turning points, and these are the Ikigais that become our reason for being at that time.

As Jim says, be the best at one thing right now. And make sure you enjoy it…

Then there are the vehicles to deliver those gifts based on our knowledge, skills and experiences to date. A vehicle could be mentoring, therapy, a book, a program or courses. It could be offering a foster home to children who need a safe space, or creating food banks or animal shelters. Your vehicle could be a sport that you love, and when that career ends, you may coach others to excel in it – that’s two Ikigais…

When I look at the themes of my life, they are constantly evolving. When my spine fractured, my Ikigai was to heal myself and inspire others to know that they could heal naturally. When I wrote my first memoir, which was a collection of life stories, it was to inspire others to write theirs and for the readers to know that there are gifts in our strange lives.

“Our Ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning.” Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Ikigai and purpose

Ikigai is about ‘finding’ purpose, but it is much deeper than that, and in my ponderings, this is how I have extended the model for me:

  • Love and good at = passion – what drives you
  • Love and world needs = purpose – what pulls you
  • World needs and rewards = values and living by your values
  • Good at and rewards = other motivators, opportunities for growth and abundance

The net result is your reason for being (for now).

The secret to a happy life

Having a clear sense of Ikigai or purpose can contribute to happiness and fulfilment by providing a sense of direction, meaning, and alignment in life.

However, the pursuit of happiness is complex. While having a sense of purpose or Ikigai can be important, it’s not a magic formula or “secret” to a happy life. They are just a part of it.

It may be more helpful to approach happiness as an ongoing process, a byproduct of living in alignment with one’s heart’s desires, values, needs, and aspirations, rather than a static state to be achieved. I like to think of it as feeling contented and having inner peace.

What do you think the secret to a happy (contented) life is?

The secret to a happy life, I think, is to enjoy living in the present, to know who you are and who you are becoming, feel confident in that, live by your values and heart’s desires, celebrate often how far you have come, follow your hearts desires, be grateful for the lessons and gifts and to do stuff that fills your heart for which you get the greatest reward.

There are probably more secrets, but these fundamentally work for me. You will have your own formula for a happy life.

Journal prompts to ponder on the sheer thingy of life

Grab a journal and relaaaaax.

  • What is it that is most important in life?
  • What makes MY life worth living?
  • What gives my life meaning?
  • What drives you?
  • What pulls you towards being your best self?
  • Where do I find fulfilment and meaning?
  • What are my heart’s desires, and why?
  • How am I living by my values (or not)?
  • What are the stories that shape me that I can use to inspire others?
  • What are the greatest rewards of my life right now?

Get out there and live a happy (contented) life wherever you are. Doing whatever you feel is your reason for being right now. And think about that one thing that you can be the best at that fills your heart, brings you joy and dosh.

What is your Ikigai for right now?

Let your journal be a mirror reflecting your true self, unfiltered and raw, capturing the essence of your journey through life.

Dale Darley