Finding your “why” is essential to living a fulfilling and purpose-driven life. It’s the driving force behind your decisions and actions, and it gives you direction and clarity in the face of challenges and obstacles. A similar Japanese concept is that of Ikigai, which refers to “our attention to the present and the point at which our mission, vocation, and professional lives meet” (Mitsuhashi, 2018; García & Miralles, 2018). But how do you find your “why/ikigai?” It can help to step outside your own thoughts on the matter, so here are some suggestions and resources to help you discover your purpose and passion in life.
Start with introspection: Take some time to reflect on what motivates you and what makes you happy. Think about the things that you are passionate about, and the things that you do well. Consider the values that are most important to you and the causes that you care about. This Reflection on Opposites exercise can also help you explore this, and this exercise can reveal common themes among what is important to you so you can examine your Ikigai more closely.
Identify your strengths: Take a look at your skills and talents, and think about how you can use them to make a positive impact in the world. Consider the things that you excel at, and how you can apply those strengths in a way that is meaningful to you. The VIA Character Strengths Survey is a useful tool for discovering ones you may not have considered.
Find inspiration: Look for role models who inspire you, and consider what it is about them that resonates with you. Think of those who embody the values and principles that you admire. They could be spiritual leaders or people of great renown. But you may find most inspiration in people you know and have actually encountered, and they may be even younger than you.
Focus on impact: Think about the kind of impact you want to have in the world. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? It can help to first confront and accept the impermanence of life. Consider the ways in which you can use your talents and strengths to make a positive impact, whether it’s in your personal life, your community, or the world at large.
Experiment: Explore different opportunities and experiences, and use them as a way to learn more about yourself and your passions. Try new things. Listening to audiobooks and podcasts that encourage, inspire, and educate can be an accessible and valuable tool for filling your mind with new language and perspectives, and creating new neural pathways to derail repetitive loops of thought that are keeping you stuck or at least “comfortable.” Here’s a podcast to try: The Good Life Project.
Ultimately, finding your “why” or “ikigai” is about connecting with your innermost desires and values, and using them as a guide to live a fulfilling and purpose-driven life. By taking the time to reflect on your passions, strengths, and values; focusing on making a positive impact in the world; and taking small (or large) steps out of your comfort zone, you can discover your purpose and live a life that is truly meaningful and fulfilling.