Updated: May 29
If I asked you "What is your life's purpose?" could you tell me?
Most people would say “heck no”. But what if you could? What if you knew exactly what it is you were put on this earth to do? What if you knew the perfect mission, occupation, or job for you? How would your life be different? Would you still live pay check to pay check, weekend to weekend, or would every day feel like another glorious step towards your life’s ultimate goal? Imagine how that would be, imagine your life filled with purpose.
Finding our life’s purpose seems like a daunting task, but the answer is not far away, in fact, it is within you. If you look beneath the surface the answer is already there, you just need to reveal it. Often it is simpler than you might expect.
"IKIGAI": A Framework for Finding Your Purpose
In Okinawa, Japan, they have no word that directly translates to “retirement”, but they do have a word; IKIGAI (sounds like icky-guy), that means “a reason for being”. If you were to ask nearly anyone there, ‘what is your ikigai?’ ("what is your life's purpose?"), they could tell you. Some fishermen might say it’s getting up early for the daily catch to feed their family and community. Some of the parents and grandparents might say it’s raising the next generation to be better than the last. Whatever it is, the people of Okinawa get out of bed everyday knowing exactly what it is they are meant to do. Their lives have deep meaning. It’s no surprise that the largest population of centenarians in the world live there.
So how do we find our life’s purpose? Our own IKIGAI? The answer lies at the intersection of 4 vital questions:
1) What are you great at?
2) What can you be paid for?
3) What do you love to do?
4) What does the world need?
Most people with a decent paycheck have already figured out the first two answers. In today’s world, most people focus on their profession and vocation. In school, we’re told we need a job that makes good money, something that will make us "successful". We spend many anxious years trying to figure out what it is we are best at, or sometimes forcing ourselves to become good at things we weren’t meant to do. We then chase a college or university degree to prove we can do that job well. Once we have it, we find an employer and start working. For many of us who reach this stage, something is still missing. After a few years of work, we consistently feel drained and have a lack of drive to continue. A life of working the same job until our retirement haunts us. Getting out of bed becomes a very tough thing to do.
What’s missing, is fulfillment - the feeling we get when we know our mission and passion. We may have achieved everything we worked for; a degree, and job, and a paycheck, but, unless you were lucky or wise enough to place yourself in a job that you find meaning in, we soon feel an emptiness in our life. The money doesn’t bring us happiness, nor do the material things we collect. The only hope we have left is that one day we can retire and be free to do whatever we love... but even then, we don't know what we truly love since we were so caught up in being "successful".
Lots of us know how to be successful, but it is rare for us to pause... and find out how to be happy. We must put the things we love and what others need first. Once we do, success comes naturally.
How I Discovered my Purpose
I am someone who has always been very introspective. From a very young age I asked myself what I was good at. I was a great artist, technologist, and creative. I was lucky to know my talents early in life and have parents that supported whatever path I chose. I worked hard and got an early acceptance to my #1 choice of university: The Ontario College of Art and Design University (I know they have college and university in their name... but I assure you it’s a university). I worked hard to get my degree and genuinely enjoyed my time studying. When I finished, I was offered an internship, and eventually a full-time job, at one of the world's largest consulting firms. While the thought of working in an office was not something I wanted to do, the pay and security was very enticing, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
I worked as a Business Technology Consultant for 2 years. A fancy way of saying I designed apps for clients. I made a lot of money for a kid straight out of university and I was very good at what I did. Clients spent thousands, sometimes millions of dollars, and we put hundreds of hours of work into creating digital products that were highly innovative but not totally necessary. About 8 months into full-time work, my attitude started to change when I came to work in the morning. I found myself working very hard doing something I didn't believe in and for people who didn't need it. I had achieved everything I worked for through my education, but I was not fulfilled at all. I didn't feel compelled to go to work anymore, or even get out of bed.
After leaving that job, the real journey began. Deep self-reflection, the discovery of my IKIGAI, and a trip that took me to the other side of the globe helped me discover what I loved. You can read more about my journey, but for now, I will tell you this...
I now make a fraction of what I did, but I'm happier than I’ve ever been because I have found purpose and passion in my work. The day I finally shifted my focus to what I love and what the world needed was the day I started getting out of bed in the morning with energy, excitement, and purpose.
Now that I have found my purpose, I work every day to get better at what I do, to help my client's grow as much or more than I do, and to enhance our reach, to as many as possible. I do it with a full heart and usually, don’t feel like I'm working at all. Now that I'm fulfilled, success is coming naturally. The things I only dreamed of years ago are slowly manifesting themselves in my life today. With patience, I know they will come soon enough.
I still reflect constantly on IKIGAI. My purpose and personal mission become more and more refined all the time. I’m sure it will continue to be refined as I continue my life’s journey, but for now, this is it in full:
My name is Jared Foote. My purpose is to be a catalyst for collective evolution by spreading awareness of movement and mindfulness practices. I am awake, we are awake.
Make Everyday Full of Purpose
I highly encourage you to explore those 4 questions, fill out your own IKIGAI diagram, and explore what brings you fulfillment. Once you do, write down your purpose and remind yourself of it every day.
So if you're feeling drained, like you can't get out of bed in the morning, remember the Okinawans of Japan. Reflect on IKIGAI and the deepest aspects of yourself. I promise you, life won't be so bland, you will not live paycheck to paycheck, or weekend to weekend. Reveal your life's purpose and you will live a longer, more fulfilled, and happy life.
Thanks for reading. Wishing you well,