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Discovering Your Purpose in Life Using Ikigai

Do you ever find yourself thinking about what your purpose is in life? Many people in this world are fortunate enough to live their entire lives with purpose. While, for others, it can take a lifetime to figure this out. Unfortunately, there are also others that are never able to do so.

When you know your purpose in life, you are able to live a more meaningful and positive life, you live a life with integrity, and you live a life that allows you to have a much greater impact on the world.

Knowing Your Purpose is Crucial

One of the most fundamental human needs is finding purpose in life. To live your best life, you must know your purpose. Your purpose is not just something you find; it is something that actually comes from within you. Parker Palmer, the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, explained this best when he stated, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live — but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.”

Possessing a sense of purpose can also impact your physical health. It can affect your longevity, cardiovascular system, and cognitive well-being. According to a research study, men and women who had a substantial connection to their sense of purpose were more likely to live longer than those who did not. Other research data indicated that people who possessed a lower sense of purpose experienced earlier death as well as cardiovascular disease. Lastly, a research study found that people having a lower sense of purpose were 2.4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as opposed to those with a strong sense of purpose. Ultimately, your overall health and longevity depend on knowing and living your purpose in life.

The Search for Purpose Often Emerges From Inflection Points in Life

Many times in life people are faced with critical times that ignite them to reflect on their purpose in life. These inflection points in life often originate from something that causes them to develop the feeling of identity loss. This feeling could transpire from a disruption of the status quo. It could be the result of losing a job, graduating, losing a loved one, or aging.

Some cultures are prone to tying the identities of people to their occupations. Therefore, if you experience job loss or retirement, you might also experience identity loss. Most of us have heard stories about healthy people who died shortly after retiring from lifelong careers. Many believe that these people died because the ending of their careers meant the ending of their purpose in life. However, what you do for a living should not define who you are. It is crucial that you remember who you are is more significant than what you do. To do this, you must search within yourself to identify who you truly are as a human being.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great accelerant for people’s search for meaning. Many people stopped going out, and they were forced to look inward. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, nearly two-thirds of the US-based employees they surveyed explained that COVID-19 had caused them to reflect on their purpose in life.

Ikigai Can Help You Reveal Your Purpose

In Japanese culture, finding meaning and purpose in life is known as finding one’s ikigai. According to, “ikigai has usually been cited as both a personal pursuit and one of benefit to others. In the end, ikigai brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to your life, while also contributing to the good of others.” The journey to ikigai will possibly require much patience, extensive self-reflection, and a great deal of commitment, but it is necessary, and it is possible.

Discover Your Ikigai

According to Positive, you must consider the following four major spheres of interest to discover your ikigai.

1. The things that you love.

Passion is essential to discovering your ikigai. You must have passion to determine your reason for living. What feeds your soul and makes you feel the most alive? You must allow yourself to deeply consider what you love.

2. The things that the world needs.

By nature, humans are social creatures. When we feel needed and valued by others, we feel complete and full of purpose. What can you give to the world? The world might be representative of the whole of humanity or a small portion such as your family, friends, or community. This sphere allows you to look beyond your own needs to connect with others and do good for them.

3. The things that you can be paid for.

When you have the ability to get paid for doing something you truly love, it provides you with the support you need to live a life filled with more fulfillment and happiness. You should carefully examine the skills you possess that could contribute to your monetary situation.

4. The things that you are good at.

You must evaluate yourself and recognize your strengths, talents, and skills. What are you capable of doing well?

Once you are able to identify what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you are good at, you will discover your passion, mission, vocation, and profession. Therefore, you will have discovered your ikigai — your meaning and purpose in life.

My Ikigai

During my career journey, I have had the opportunity to help and coach many executives. In the early 1990’s I co-founded NETSHARE, Inc., which was one of the first online networks for executives. We provided senior level job listings directly from companies and recruiters, career information, professional career support, networking opportunities, and unique personal service. It was with NETSHARE that I discovered my love of coaching.

I also discovered that it was needed. Many of the executives I met through NETSHARE were senior executives at major companies. They were so busy managing their work, they lost sight of managing their career. Based on the feedback and results, it turned out that I was good at it, too!

In short, I discovered my ikigai. I realized what I loved, what the world needed, what I could be paid for, and what I was good at. I truly knew my passion, my mission, my vocation, and my profession.

I eventually closed NETSHARE after a run of 25 years. As I began reflecting upon my life, I was able to use the Ikigai framework to envision what was next for me as I embarked on my third act journey with the launch of Métier Associates LLC.

Now I am living my best life as an executive career and leadership development coach. Through my ikigai, I am living my life with purpose as I help others discover theirs.

If you are looking to find more meaning in your life or career, let’s talk. Schedule a Discovery Call for a complimentary coaching session with me:

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