Ikigai Your Way to Passion and Purpose


Are you living your life with purpose? What does that even mean? Is it just the latest self-help guru trend?

We know very clearly that the secret to a long and happy life is to live with meaning and purpose every day.

Every. Single. Day.

Living your life with meaning and value will make you happier, more content and more resilient through hard times. We find meaning in many different places: relationships, work, hobbies, volunteering, for example. What gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in life? And how can we use a Japanese tool, the Ikigai, to find our sweet spot?

The issues of meaning and purpose are particularly important to women 60+ because we often need to recast our lives. Many of us have finished raising children, and we’re either in retirement or close to it.

So, we can end up with an empty nest and at the same time we’re leaving our work life and the structure it brings behind. We need to restructure our lives and our time and we need to see the life we create through the prism of joy and purpose.

Ikigai is a truly excellent tool for women 60+.


What Is Ikigai?


Ikigai is a Japanese word that has no exact translation in English. Ikigai is the meaning of life, the thing that makes you get out of bed each day in eager anticipation. In Japanese culture, finding meaning and purpose in life is to find one’s ikigai (ee-key-guy). Ikigai can be understood as a reason for being, which makes life worth living.

The word is made by joining iki, meaning “life” or “being alive” and gai, meaning “what is worthwhile and has value.” So, the literal translation would be “that which makes life worth living.”

According to Japanese culture, one way to a more meaningful and purposeful life is to discover your ikigai. Finding your ikigai provides a reason for living even when faced with adversity, hardship, and suffering. Your ikigai is found at the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.

These overlapping circles lead to your passion, profession, mission and vocation. If your life is lacking in one area, you are missing out on your potential and the opportunity to lead a happier life.

So, how do you feel when you wake up on workdays? Do you look forward to going to work or do you wish it was Friday afternoon already? If you’re retired, how do you feel when you wake up, knowing your plan for the day? Is it engaging or would you rather just go back to sleep?

Research has shown that those who feel enthusiastic about going to work have a career that aligns with their interests, values and strengths. This alignment increases intrinsic motivation and happiness, provides purpose and meaning and buffers the effects of workplace stressors. If you’re retired, the question is whether your activities align with your interests, values and strengths.


Finding Your Ikigai


Finding meaning and purpose in life is a fundamental human need. We seek meaning and validation of our place in our life and our world. Meaning creates a feeling that our life makes sense, that we experience purpose, feeling directed and motivated by valued goals and feeling that we matter and our existence matters. Having ikigai means that each day is infused with meaning and reflects not only psychological factors, such as wellbeing, hopes, and dreams but also our motivation for living.

So take a piece of paper and divide it up as per the diagram below and start filling in the circles. Alternatively, take a large sheet of cardboard and draw large circles with plenty of room to list out your thoughts. This is a work in progress that gets done not in one sitting but over a number of days or even weeks.

After you get your initial thoughts down, you’ll start to percolate on your life and come up with answers you didn’t have to start with. Take the time to brainstorm your ideas and then do a brain dump onto your diagram. This will create clarity. When you feel you’ve finished brain dumping, you can always transfer your Ikigai to a fresh piece of cardboard.

Exercise: Finding your ikigai starts with 4 circles:

  1. Things you love
  2. Things the world needs
  3. Things you’ll get paid for
  4. Things you’re good at

Your ikigai is the point at which your answers to these four questions overlap.

Ikigai is located right at the centre of the circles.


Circle 1: What Do You Love?

Passion is essential to finding your ikigai. Without it, one might argue that you cannot find your reason for living. What do you genuinely feel passionate about? This is the easiest part of the exercise. Make a note of everything you can think of that makes you feel good and/or happy.

Think of the things you love in any aspect of life: your work, your family, volunteer activities, or personal interests and hobbies. Write quickly, without overthinking it. Be completely honest and only write down what you feel passionate about. End each sentence with “……………….. makes me happy.”

Write your answers in the section of your ikigai chart, labelled, ‘What you love’.


Circle 2: What Does the World Need?

Humans are social animals – when we know that we are needed by others, we feel useful, valuable and full of purpose. Feeling we are useful to those around us is one of the secrets of self-fulfilment. This question will help you discover what you can give to the world.

Thinking about what the world needs globally might seem like an overwhelming task, so take a step back from the big picture and think about this question in smaller, more local terms. Think about what your friends, family, and immediate community need. These needs can include just about anything: a product, a service, or something as simple as helping one single person.

Write your answers in the section of your ikigai chart, labelled, ‘What the world needs’.


Circle 3: What Can You Get Paid For?

The concept of ikigai is also related to finances because when you can get paid for doing something that you love, you have the foundation for a happier, more fulfilling life. Yet, finding a job where you can apply your talents, share your passion, and get paid for it is often difficult to achieve. Consider your previous employment positions: What were you good at? Did you excel at anything in particular when employed in those roles?

Record what makes you money right now without judging whether or not it makes you happy. “Now I make a living by………………………” Next, write down other possible sources of income that could sustain you in the future. Think about the specific skills you have that could make you money today.

For many women who have retired this can be a truly critical step where you might decide to create a side hustle that brings in extra income.


Circle 4: What Are You Good At?

Figuring out what you are good at involves a lot of self-evaluation. This question will help you think about your talents and skills. Before answering, take some time to think about your skills, your strengths, and all the things you are capable of doing well – no matter how big or small.

Perhaps you have a particular skill or talent that comes naturally to you, that people find helpful, or that you have worked hard to achieve. Begin your sentence with “I’m good at……”


Your Ikigai Requires Commitment

Finding your ikigai requires a commitment to action and is not likely to be discovered overnight. It will unfold over time and change as various aspects of your own life change.


Overlapping Circles

Be aware of any overlapping answers as they will provide clarity on other aspects of your life and, therefore, lead you closer to discovering your ikigai.


What You Love + What You Are Good At = Your Passion

If any item listed in ‘what you love’ also appears in ‘what you are good at,’ then you have found your passion. When activities fall into these two categories, you might experience a feeling of satisfaction, but you might also feel that you are not contributing as much to the world as you could. Importantly, no matter how passionate you are about something, if you receive no financial reward for it, it is not sustainable in the long term.


What You Love + What the World Needs = Your Mission

If any item listed in ‘what you love’ also appears in ‘what the world needs,’ then you have found your mission. When activities fall into these two categories, you are likely to experience delight and fullness, but you are also likely to notice a distinct absence of income and financial stability.


What You Can Be Paid For + What the World Needs = Your Vocation

If any item listed in ‘what you can be paid for’ also appears in ‘what the world needs,’ then you have found your vocation. These activities can have a positive influence on the world and have the bonus of providing an income. However, not being good at your job can create anxiety, and without love for what you are doing, the experience can feel empty and unfulfilling.


What You Are Good At + What You Can Be Paid For = Your Profession

If any item listed in ‘what you are good at’ also appears in ‘what you can be paid for,’ then you have found your profession. You might feel comfortable during these activities; however, doing something that you do not love and that the world does not need can make your work and efforts feel trivial.

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Ikigai which is Japanese Philosophy to Inspire Your Life and Career


All Four Circles = Your Ikigai at the Centre

Important note: If your responses to this exercise do not reveal an activity that you love, believe in, are good at, and can get paid for, do not be deterred. Finding your ikigai can take time, practise and patience. Just start where you can and allow yourself time to percolate your responses.



It’s essential to look for balance in the circles. Ignoring one or more circles is a recipe for dissatisfaction. If you focus on only one of the circles, your life will be way out of balance. And even if you satisfy three of the circles and ignore the fourth, you’ll still feel like something’s missing.


The Missing Circles

If you find you have circles that are missing, it’s essential to give them more attention.

Reflect on the actions you can take to improve a particular circle and which will take you one step closer to finding your ikigai. Look closely at what is missing.


Final Tips

  1. Don’t neglect any of the circles.
  2. Aim for the intersections.
  3. Look for overlaps – activities that wound up on more than one list.
  4. Devote more time to those activities.
  5. Focus on using your strengths rather than correcting your weaknesses.

Wishing you every success with finding your ikigai.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

  • Are you in tune with your passion?
  • What about vocation?
  • Have you found your mission?
  • Would you share your ikigai with the community and how you found it?


Article published and appeared first on Sixty and Me.