How To Find Your Ikigai

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.

I wrote a guest post on Early To Rise showing how to effectively use the ikigai framework to find more purpose and meaning in your life.

I recently read “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” by Héctor García and started to reflect on my own life to find my Ikigai.

After reading this book, I strongly recommend this book to anyone struggling to find their unique purpose in life.

Often times we overcomplicate the process of finding our purpose. You are not going to wake up one day and fully realize your purpose in life. Instead, you must accept the gifts you have been given and the way you are wired and how that will lead to your ikigai.

How To Find Your Ikigai

Finding your ikigai is a pretty straightforward process. I will briefly walk you through this exercise to help you find your reason for being.

Find Your Ikigai

This graphic looks confusing at first but it’s actually really simple.

I would encourage you to take out a blank piece of paper and draw 4 overlapping circles with a spot in the middle to write your ikigai.

In order to find your ikigai, you must answer the four following questions

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What can you be paid for?
  3. What does the World need?
  4. What do you love?

For most people, they don’t put enough thought into these questions. The best part about trying to find your ikigai is you have all these answers in your head already. You just need to pull them out.

Let’s break down these questions in a little more detail.

What are you good at?

You might be thinking… “I am not good at anything”. I refuse to believe that. It’s simply not true.

Everyone has natural abilities. You must think about times when you were able to do things others thought was difficult.

  • Maybe it’s saving money.
  • Maybe it’s taking care of kids.
  • Maybe it’s cooking meals cheaply.

Whatever it is you have something unique that you are good at. Write down 10-20 things you feel like you are good at. Even if you are not world-class you can write down ideas of things that make you better than most.

What can you be paid for?

If you hate your job don’t write that down because it will not satisfy the other questions.

But what would someone pay you $10/hr – $100/hr for?

Going back to our examples above would someone pay you to watch their children or cook them a delicious meal?

If you aren’t sure if people are willing to pay you just do a simple Google search for what you are good at and see what others are charging. Ask yourself, could I see myself charing this much for that service?

If the answer is yes you know what you can be paid for.

What does the World need?

This might be the toughest question of the four.

What the World needs is highly subjective to your values and ethics.

But deep down if you reflect on your life and the life of others I believe you will know what the World truly needs.

Maybe the World needs more religion, hope, less hate, or a way to provide clean water for everyone.

Whatever that is for you write it down.

What do you love?

How do you define love?

To find your ikigai you must love what you do.

For me, loving something means I talk about it all the time with anyone who will listen and it leaves me feeling happy and content when I do it.

I love to read.

I love to come home and be greeted by my dog.

But these are low-level things that I love.

Your challenge will be to write down the things you love that align with the other things you have written on your list.

What did you find in the middle?

Now look back at all your answers. What did you find in the middle?

It could be a closely related relationship that you can morph into an idea or purpose that is your ikigai.

Finding your ikigai isn’t always clear.

Remember how I said you won’t wake up and just know your life’s purpose. Sometimes it can take a few tries to lock in on your purpose.

Let’s use an example to get your gears turning a little bit more.

  1. What are you good at?
    1. Cooking meals that are affordable
  2. What can you be paid for?
    1. Teaching others how to cook cheap meals
  3. What does the World need?
    1. More healthy food options for low-income families
  4. What do you love?
    1. Educating people about the food they put in their body
  5. Example Ikigai
    1. Showing families how to cook affordable meals so they can be healthier and happier.

What to do with your ikigai

This is the truly exciting part.

Once you have your ikigai in your mind and heart you can start thinking of all the different ways you can fulfill your life’s purpose.

It could be starting a business, writing a book, speaking at events, or sharing what you have learned with others.

The options are endless.

In the book by Héctor García, some of the examples he found from 100-year-old Japanese men and women were really simple.

One elderly woman’s life’s purpose was to fulfill her duties as the community leader so her friends and family could attend the events they enjoyed in their small Japanese village.

Your ikigai could be as simple as being the best mother possible for your children.

Your ikigai can & will change

I have learned that you shouldn’t put too much stress on yourself trying to find your life’s purpose. As life tests you, your purpose will change.

It’s okay to have different interests show up in life and adjust your purpose to go after new and exciting passions.

I encourage you to fill out this ikigai exercise every couple of years to see if you’re in true alignment with your unique purpose.

Wrapping It Up

I hope this exercise was helpful in finding your ikigai. I know it can be stressful trying to find your purpose in life.

I really enjoy this method of finding my purpose in life because it’s simple, can be done on the back of a napkin and is really easy to talk about with others.

Try it out and let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed it and if you found your ikigai.

Related: Check out our 5Fs Framework.