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To Reach Success Follow Your Purpose, Not Just Your Passion

How to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life

Most people, at some point in their lives, will ask themselves about their life purpose. Some will ponder about it for a few minutes, thinking life’s purpose is just to live life as society seems to push us to: working, having a family, finding entertaining hobbies, and reaching happiness.

Others will think very hard about their life’s purpose, thinking about what could it be. What is that single thing that should drive them forward no matter how dark the times feel? Most will just move the thought away after a while, frustrated and unhappy at the thought of not finding their purpose.

The truth is, finding a purpose in one’s life is no easy task, but most seem to agree it will indeed lift a weight off your shoulders and lead you towards a genuinely successful and happy life by adding value and meaning to your life. That’s why life’s purpose has been a topic for priests, psychologists, philosophers and many others throughout history, and it will continue to be so for as long as humans exist.

The main problem people encounter when searching for their purpose is twofold. First, they think their life purpose is immutable, and it will remain the same thing from the moment they are born to the moment they take their last breath. Assuming there is only one not only adds an unnecessary amount of pressure to one’s pursuit, but it is unrealistic. It doesn’t take into account life’s unique twists, changes and growth opportunities.

The second problem most people face when trying to find their purpose in life is that they think it is a one-dimensional pursuit. That it should be something that you are really good at, and that’s it. Forgetting that to find value, meaning and purpose, you have to examine many aspects of your life and even your place in society.

But now that we understand how difficult this search for purpose is, how do we find it? What should we reflect on and analyse? And if we know it is something that changes, how can we be sure we have found it at any one point?

Of course, there are many ways to find it and interpretations, but I would like to focus on the Japanese way of doing it: Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese concept which translates to ‘what gives life’s worth, purpose and meaning’. It is represented by a Venn diagram which shows the intersection of doing something good for yourself that you enjoy and can master, with the fact of providing value to society.

Ikigai is not only about finding your passions, but it is about seeing how they can benefit society. How can your skills and interests be of service to those around you? Only when finding this will you have a fulfilling life, a successful one, by terms beyond a fancy car or a big house, by something more significant than that, more transcendental, more meaningful.

To find your Ikigai, focus on these four questions:

  • What do you love doing? Genuinely, what do you love? What types of activities make you forget about time, hunger, and anything around once you do it? What gets you in that flow state?

  • What are you good at? What skills flow more or less naturally to you?

  • What does your community or society need? What value can you provide to others?

  • And last but not least, Ikigai understands that we must eat and pay our bills, so it considers what can you be paid for?

Once you reflect and think about these questions, you will come back with a set of skills and activities that combined can help you find your purpose. The most important thing is to realise that this will be changing throughout your life and that you might have some unevenness in how all of these questions are met. For example, you might be excellent at something you enjoy (but not love) that gets you paid an average amount (more like a side hustle) but adds a lot of value to your community. Or, on the contrary, you might find something that pays you really well, adds a lot of value to society, and you are really good at it, but you don’t entirely love. This is perfectly possible and human.

Once you find your purpose, you must continue to reflect and take stock of how things are going; from once a year to multiple times per year, you should consider going back to these questions and examine your life.

After all, we are changing creatures; we progress, grow, and learn new things about ourselves. In this life journey, our life purpose will swiftly pivot. However, it is up to us to remain in charge. To not move through life on autopilot, thinking we have figured it all out at the age of 20, 30, 40, and so on.

Finding your life purpose is about looking beyond yourself. It is about finding something bigger than us, more significant than those around us, which will guide us and help us feel fulfilled in life. It is not about a great achievement or a hefty bank account. It is simply about making sure we spend our limited time on this earth well, joyfully and purposefully.

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