Be honest, how many times have you questioned the meaning of life, or what your place is in this world?
It’s OK if it’s a lot! It’s an honest, human question, being the intelligent, curious creatures we are. I encourage it!
But there’s also beauty in the fact that we don’t have that one answer or reason for living. Because if we did, it would be boring. We’d all be living only for that one thing and paradoxically, there’d be no point.
So I’ve learned to not get caught up in trying to find that one answer. That’s only going to spiral. Instead, I’ve adjusted my energy to focus on creating my own answer and I’m doing that with the philosophy of ikigai.
Ikigai — Your reason for being
I recently found this Japanese philosophy and I’ve been telling everyone about it!
The idea is that everyone has their own reason for being and it’s revealed at the intersection between 4 pillars: your passion, your mission, your vocation, and your profession.
When you are doing something that you’re good at, you love doing it, the world needs it and is paying you for it, you can say you have found your true purpose.
So why am I still unsatisfied?
I know what you’re thinking, you don’t feel like you have found that true purpose yet and you’re still pondering why you’re here. I get it. But if you know that everyone already has their own ikigai, just at varying levels of intensity, then all you have to do now is enhance it.
Not everyone is at a place where that middle section is completely filled by all four areas, but no one is at a place where it’s completely empty either. Yours could just be leaning towards one or two areas, and that’s totally fine.
That’s the great thing about learning this concept. You don’t have to have your ikigai fully fleshed out in the beginning. And it’s most likely going to change as you grow and learn with the world and its changes. Life is an exploration of curiosity, and it’s going to be a constant journey of molding yourself to the best version that you can be.
“You don’t have to do only one thing, you don’t have to absolutely love the one thing forever and ever, and you don’t have to stick with it. Fuck it. Be a Renaissance Man.” -Anonymous
When I first read about this, I also felt lost because I wasn’t able to fill each pillar all the way. But now that I know about it, it’s been able to guide me in every decision I make.
Think about it. How often do we sit down to truly reflect on the core areas of our lives and our roles in them? When you’re spinning your wheels, grinding, and piecing together a life in unfocused pieces, it’s hard not to feel like your life is chaotic.
I don’t think I’m living my best ikigai yet either, but it’s a process. And we’re only going to get there if we seriously think about it every day, working through the nuances and limiting beliefs in each pillar.
Let’s break it down.
I don’t have a passion
We hear it all the time, “Follow your passion,” “Do what you love and it won’t feel like work.”
I was beating myself up because I felt like I wasn’t passionate about anything. It made me feel like I was losing in life because I was “lost.”
This is where I had to think deeper about what passion really meant to me.
I asked myself questions like:
- Why don’t I love what I currently do?
- If I had all the time and money in the world, what would I do?
- Am I being too “picky” or want too much?
- Am I comparing myself to other people and being afraid of missing out?
- What is something I should give myself more credit for? What kinds of things am I already good at?
- When do I feel most “in my element” and what exactly am I doing in that moment?
- What excites me, or what am I curious about that intrinsically motivates me to want to learn more and keep getting better at it?
I found out that I love being around people and taking care of them. If anyone is ever in a sad, angry, lonely, stressed, or bored state, I feel an inner obligation to dive deeper into the root of it.
Your answers will be different than mine, but after you’ve answered them for yourself, you can embark on the journey to create that passion.
I want to hear what your answers are! Add a comment below or find me on my blog.
Passion is the most important starting point in finding our ikigai (which is probably why they had it at the top but don’t quote me on that). Starting with a passion can guide you in developing the right skill set, aligning with a greater cause, and make money doing it. If you start in the opposite direction and just go for the money like I did, you will either burn out, your business will die, or you will get sick of your job or career because you will have no other inspiration to fall back on when things get tough.
Now you can feel better knowing that you have the power to decide where to go from here. Start with your passion, something that excites you or peaks your curiosity that inspires you keep getting better at it, and everything else will follow. But if you still feel lost, let’s dig deeper.
I’m not good at anything
Let me ask you, are you actually very skilled in something and you’re just not giving yourself more credit for it? Is your definition of being “good enough” skewed based on the small few who you’re comparing against? Are you just being too humble and modest and it’s getting in the way of your confidence to claim your expertise?
I’m willing to bet it’s got to be one of those because it definitely was for me.
Even today, I suffer from the Imposter Syndrome constantly.
I would overthink the qualifications for the job every time. I would try not to proclaim too much and I definitely didn’t want to overestimate or hype myself up.
So I pushed myself down.
The thing is, humans love to feel like they are THE best, THE smartest, THE most qualified person, especially if it’s something that people would be paying for. But that’s farthest from the truth.
There’s actually a lot of strength, courage, and wisdom in admitting how little you know while showing what you will do to find that answer.
So don’t let yourself feel that you aren’t good at something if you love what you do and if there’s a market that people would be willing to pay you for. But don’t forget to keep learning and practicing it!
I don’t know what the world needs
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
Maybe we’re overcomplicating this all. We might feel like we have to figure out how to impact society directly, but what if we’re jumping too far ahead here? What if we just focus on what makes us feel human instead? What if that’s all that the world needs? Would you be OK with that?
Plus, most of the time, the world doesn’t know what they need, they are a reactive bunch. So it’s up to YOU, your passion, and your skills to convince the world you have what they need.
No one will pay me for my services
Are you feeling broke, or are you actually broke?
If you’re feeling broke, is it because you have a lot of negative habits with money and saving money? Any misconceptions about money? Do you have a scarcity mindset rather than an abundance mindset? Are you focusing too much on what you don’t have rather than being grateful for all the things you do have?
Now if you’re actually broke, I feel you. It sucks when you’re doing what you love and you believe it’s what society actually needs, but our broken society doesn’t want to pay you for it.
But with this framework, now you know. If you need to make more money, you either have to get even better at what you’re doing, find a different way to align your message with the rest of the world, or maybe find a new audience/customer/company/investor who have the funds to support you.
This is generally what we all want, to make money doing what we love. Well, now you can embark on the journey to do so.
Find that passion that motivates you to always refine your craft, make that into your profession. Find that mission that aligns where you want to go with where society wants to go, make that your vocation. Experiment, practice, and learn to put yourself out there, and the money will come.
There’s no ‘X’ that marks the spot
I say you will never find meaning in your life because it’s not something you can ever find externally. The more you look for it, the more it evades you. There’s no secret treasure chest that is holding your life’s purpose for you. It is created by expanding past your limiting beliefs. And more importantly, it is manifested by acting in spite of those feelings and emotions.
The beautiful thing is, your ikigai was probably something completely different than what you thought it was when you were a kid, and it’s going to be completely different some time in the future as well.
Because it’s not meant to define your whole life. It’s meant to be a lifelong companion that points you in the direction you know you want to go.
I’ve learned to be careful about putting so much weighted stress on finding that one true passion that is supposed to make me happy for the rest of my life. There’s no secret treasure chest that holds all of life’s purpose for anyone. No one person or external thing is going to figure out my reason for being for me. It’s very logical but was still difficult for me to understand. Common sense is not so common.
I hope you’ve also found this philosophy helpful, not to give you an exact answer, but to be there for guidance to look for that answer. I think of ikigai as a compass. Yes, it does technically point us to a specific location (i.e. the north pole), but we don’t use it to actually get there. It’s more just a tool that tells us where we are and orients us in the direction that we want to go.
Now let’s go explore!
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