Are you doing work that lights you up? If not, you’re in the majority of Americans who say that their work isn’t engaging.
What’s missing? Meaning, psychologists say. Finding purpose in your work correlates with increased motivation, better health, and a sense of personal fulfillment. One international study found that people who have a sense of purpose in life are at a lower risk of death and heart disease. They are more motivated and resilient, which protects them from stress and burnout.
If you find yourself constantly chasing after external success (money, status, etc.), only to find yourself empty and unfulfilled, then it may be time to find your “Ikigai”.
Find Your Ikigai
The Japanese have a word for purpose, called “Ikiagi” (pronounced ee-kee-guy). It’s a more expansive definition of happiness that roughly translates to the “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you get up in the morning.” Researcher Dan Buettner shares more about the Okinawan concept in this TED Talk, but in short, your Ikigai boils down to the intersection of:
1. Your passion – What do you love doing? What activities absorb your attention and make time fly by?
2. Your profession – What are you good at? What are your strengths? Which skills or trades do you specialize in?
3. Your mission – What kind of impact do you want to have? What problems do you want to solve? How do you want to be remembered?
4. Your vocation – What do people pay you for? How do you make a living?
According to experts, finding work (however you define that) that ticks each of the above boxes lead to “shihuku”, supreme bliss or happiness. When your career aligns with your Ikigai, it creates a feeling of joy where you can not only leverage your strengths and contribute to society but also earn a living doing what you love.
If finding your Ikigai seems like a far-off wish right now, start with small steps. In his book, The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do, author Jeff Goins suggests using an approach called “building a bridge.” Let’s say your dream is to leave your full-time job and start your own business. Build a bridge by launching a side hustle or switching roles within your company to learn skills that will be helpful to you as an entrepreneur.
Remember, your purpose isn’t something you discover overnight. It will evolve and change through a process of self-reflection and life experiences. But defining your “Ikigai” can be an important guide on that journey.