What gets you out of bed each day?

I believe everyone has a “life purpose” – a purpose or reason to get out of bed each day.

For a fortunate few it is a “calling”, a North Star that they follow throughout their life, but for many it is more elusive and not something they frequently consider… but it’s still there – having a healthy family, an active social life, experiencing the world.

But what happens if our focus is blurred? If we don’t know what we truly need? If we don’t know our Life Purpose? Or we know it but don’t know how to follow it?

This has been playing on my mind throughout my journey as a life coach and as a result led me to a number of life purpose discovery methods, and to focus now on one in particular – “Ikigai”.

Ikigai is a Japanese word originating from the island of Okinowa and it refers to the lifestyle of Okinowa residents who appear to live a longer active life – sometimes up to 120 years or more, owing at least in part to being engaged in life pursuits.

In the words of Psychologist Michiko Kumano, Ikigai “entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment“. (Kumano, 2018).

As you can imagine, finding and following your Ikigai is not a trivial task. According to Tim Tamachiro, “Ikigai is like Karate, you gain more insight each day you return to learn more”, in his book “How to Ikigai”, he continues…

It’s a physical and mental practice that takes years to master, but practitioners develop further each time they return. Karate master Shoshin Nagamine summed up karate mastery by saying, “Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training, and one’s own creative efforts.” The same can be said about Ikigai. Ikigai takes time, practice, and creativity. You must have a singular goal to work toward. You must understand the conflict within yourself in order to realize your full potential. Ikigai is a singular understanding of what you love to do, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be rewarded for. Grit helps you do your Ikigai today and come back tomorrow. You need grit if you are to realize your Ikigai.

Tamashiro, Tim. How to Ikigai (pp. 93-94). Mango Media. Kindle Edition.

If you Google “Ikigai” the first thing you’ll notice is a proliferation of Venn diagrams that all look something like this:

What you can see here are four interlocking circles that represent four aspects of life:

1. What you love

2. What you are good at

3. What you can be paid for

4. What the world needs

Where these 4 circles interconnect together is your “Ikigai” – the place where these four life aspects come together to a life purpose or “reason for being”.

So how do you know if you’re living already in a state of “Ikigai”? Well, how about you take a small test?

  1. Think about all aspects of your life, your physical life, emotional life, mental life and spiritual life.
  2. Answer these 4 questions:
  • Do you feel satisfaction with the things you are doing, but at the same time have a feeling of uselessness – (“What’s the point?”)
  • Do you feel things are somehow settled and OK but that there’s something missing from your life? (“I feel somehow empty”)
  • Do you feel excited with opportunities but scared and uncertain of your ability to follow through? (“I feel incapable”)
  • Do you have a full life but worried that your physiological needs (food, shelter etc) are not being met? (“I’m broke and feel insecure”)

If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions then it may be that you haven’t found your “Ikigai” or that you’re not living according to it.

So then, how do you find your Ikigai?

You conduct a life audit on what you love and your strengths – your passion, then you seek for a “just cause” – what the world wants. Once you have an idea of your passion and just cause, you analyse the implications on what you’re doing now, make a plan and execute!

What do you love?

What are you good at?

  • Find you strengths (Strengths finder)
  • Do a self-assessment
  • Do a peer assessment – ask family and friends

What puts you into “flow”?

  • When what you do just “happens” and time slips away un-noticed

What is your “just cause”

  • What does your family need?
  • What does your social network need?
  • What does your country need?
  • What does the world need (UN Sustainability Goals)?

What are the implications – validate where, what and how you work

  • What can you do in your workplace to bring passion to your work?
  • What can you do in your workplace to support your just cause?
  • What can you do alongside your workplace to support your just cause and your passion?
  • How and where do you need to grow?

Plan and act.

  • What are my change goals for the next 6 months?
  • Where do I start?
  • One approach is to consider a “side hustle”, a side project or activity that you can develop part-time and then switch over to full-time when it makes sense.

Your Ikigai concerns your entire life purpose – if you’re lucky you can adapt your work and career to embrace your Ikigai, but if not, then what?

One approach is to consider a “side hustle”, a side project or activity that you can develop part time and then switch over to full-time when it makes sense.

In his book, “How to Ikigai”, Tim Takashiro shares some stories of people who achieved their Ikigai via a side hustle that then turned full-time. One such example is Kath Younger, a young woman with a passion for food and writing.

Kath started a blog where she would write three meal posts per day: one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. She quickly gained a few subscribers. Her blog, Kath Eats Real Food, began to gain momentum and change lives. Her part-time passion was making progress, and she felt rewarded by doing it on her blog at www.katheats.com. At the time, Kath worked full-time in public relations, but she went back to school to become a registered dietician. Kath’s story sounds familiar, doesn’t it? She had a desire to “share the how behind living a healthy life.” She had a noble goal. The time she could find to do it was during her recreation hours. She started part-time, and it grew into a bigger part of her life. Kath Younger is now a full-time blogger. She’s turned her passion into her work by blogging. Her scope has developed as she has. Kath still blogs about healthy eating, but she also writes posts about being a mom, travel, budgeting, and gardening. She’s turned into a lifestyle brand through blogging. Kath has become a thought leader for thousands of subscribers by just being herself and living her Ikigai. Her Ikigai is to share truthfully.

Tamashiro, Tim. How to Ikigai (p. 117). Mango Media. Kindle Edition.

What’s next

If you want to learn more you can download my white paper on the subject of Ikigai, contact me or book a time for a free coaching session.

What is my “why”?

Last week I had an interesting meeting with the CEO of D11 Helsinki, Heikki Leskinen. We discussed several topics including the Millennial Board, and as part of that discussion Heikki asked me “what is my why?”.

An obvious question, one that I had tried to address in my first blog post. But being on the spot, being asked that question, and being the slow thinker that I am, I stumbled with my answer - and realised that I haven’t really defined my “why" well enough.

Why do I want to coach and mentor? Why do I want to help people improve their health and balance their lives? Why do I want to engage in change assignments and projects?
This called for some introversion and reflection. What excites me?

  • Grateful and positive feedback for a job well done? Yes!
  • Seeing people I like and love excel in their goals? Yes!
  • Being able to bring cohesion to teams and help get things organised? Yes!!
  • Innovation - engaging in the ways technology is changing the world and solving big and small problems? Yes!!!
  • Fixing things - applying tools and technology to solve problems? Yes, that too!

I remember when I was a kid - my bedroom was a "rats nest" of cables, connecting old bits of HiFi and TVs to try to make music sound good. What I loved was being able to address the challenge of making things work.

And when I was older I got involved with computers in 1971, and in 1975 had my first opportunity to be a programmer - and got a real buzz there from making things work with code, and that lasted for about 5 years until I was “promoted” to become a project manager and consultant, making things work between people and teams… and I suppose that sums up the rest of my career - making things work between people.

The Millennial Board creates some interesting opportunities, it serves to connect executives with young professionals to bring new insights and awareness. In their own words, it is "a global community of insightful young professionals. We help executives ask better questions and build a brighter future for their companies - and for all of us.”.

Simon Sinek

So, my “why”? Revised version: Making things work for people and between people!