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Ikigai to Discover Your Purpose in Life

If you already know what your purpose in life is, that’s great. If you have a purpose to be, a mission to achieve, a reason to get out of bed in the morning—and if that motivation comes from the heart rather than an obligation—then I want to tell you how blessed you are. On the other hand, if you don’t quite know what your purpose is or want to steer yourself towards something you want to be more passionate about, that’s okay too, and I would like to nudge you in the right direction to figure that out. I also don’t quite know what my purpose is either, like I haven’t pinpointed it just yet, but I feel like I am finally getting a little warmer, and I want to tell you about Ikigai.

Ikigai is a Japanese approach to understanding your purpose in life by visually mapping out who you are and your reasons for being. Maybe you already know what your purpose is, or perhaps you didn’t quite know what it was until you saw it visually mapped out like this. Ikigai is designed as a Venn quadrigram (or if that’s not a real word, then it’s a Venn diagram but with four circles) that brings together what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and connecting those pieces of yourself to what the world really needs. You might already know what you love and what you’re good at, but I would like to encourage you to think about how to use your gifts for the world and to connect that to your new purpose in life.

As these four circles overlap, we also see new areas that combine these different pieces of ourselves to discover new ideas that we might not have seen like this before. When we cross what we love with what we’re good at, we can affirm or discover our passions in life. When we cross what we’re good at to what we can be paid for, we find possible new professions if we’re not already doing what we need to be doing. When we cross what we can be paid for with what the world needs, we explore possible vocations or callings we might have. Finally, when we cross what the world needs back to what we love, we will discover a new mission for our reason of being. 

This is the intelligent design of Ikigai—all of this passion and knowledge and beauty already exists within you—but maybe you didn’t see it like this before, and when you explore your Ikigai, you will discover something new about yourself every single time. So grab your journal and something to write with, and please give this a try. If you are circularly challenged, and it’s actually a little difficult to draw those circles, that’s okay. Dedicate four pages to this exercise and draw a line in half on each page, making eight spaces in total that you can fill with bullet points and ideas. 


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In the first space, explore what you love. Have a brainblast on this one and list them all out. This can range from what you like to what your reasons to live are. (Example: breakfast, my dog, sunrise/sunset, the beach, coffee, etc., etc.). There’s so much to love in life and admire and be inspired by. What are yours?

In the second, explore your passions. What do you enjoy doing, and what do you feel strongly about? (Example: art, dance, film, music, environment, social justice, surfing, or whatever passions you may have). Many of us have several passions or art forms or athletic hobbies, or calls for activism. Where do you want to put your time and energy toward?

In the third, explore what you’re good at. Sometimes I also have a hard time thinking that I’m actually good at things, but please think about it. What are your gifts and talents? These can be anything from hidden abilities to big small achievements. (Example: making the best of things, creative problem solving, making coffee). You’re probably a very bright and talented person, even if you didn’t see yourself that way before.

In the fourth, explore your profession or a possible profession if you aren’t quite there yet. A profession is an occupation or field that would require some knowledge or experience on your behalf. What field do you want to work in or learn more about professionally? (Example: fine art, filmmaking, engineering, sustainability, technology, writing). Your answer may or may not be what you’re already doing, but it would help you to be honest with yourself. 

In the fifth space, explore what you’ve actually paid for. What’s your day job again? It’s okay if you’re still on your way to accomplishing your goals, but think about what job skills you’ve developed, even if it’s not what you had in mind. (Example: from being a waitress, I developed excellent communication, customer service, and problem-solving abilities). What skills do you have that you can be paid for?

In the sixth, explore your vocation or a particular calling you might have. Maybe it’s learning a new skill, or taking a new class, or starting a passion project. What do you want to do that would require a little more learning or practice? (Example: blogging, karate, learning piano, starting a business, things like that). 

In the seventh, explore what the world needs from your unique understanding and perspective. Some people might think that our world needs more love or environmental and social justice, and those are all good points. What do you feel the world needs right now? There’s a lot that we can do together.

By now, you have probably poured your heart and mind onto your pages. How do you feel about your Ikigai? In the last space, please take all of this beautiful information and try your best to create a mission for yourself. Now knowing all of this about yourself, a mission is a statement of purpose that will direct you to do what you want to do and what you are about to do. This is the piece that changes every single time I map out my Ikigai. There are so many ways you can direct your flow of thought to compose your mission statement, but do your best to bring yourself together to put yourself out there again.

I hope that this exercise may have helped you discover your purpose or helped you find new reasons to be inspired through your Ikigai. I want to remind you that you are so unique, and our world needs you to be the very best version of yourself who is passionate and motivated and so very capable of accomplishing good things

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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