A clear purpose in life - how to find your "ikigai" and why it matters

Do you have a clear sense of purpose in your life - something that energises or drives you?

Knowing what you're living for helps you live each day with purpose. Enrich your life by discovering - or rediscovering - what matters most to you.

When your alarm goes off each day, do you spring out of bed with a smile … or groggily stretch to hit the snooze button? The good news is you don’t have to be a morning person to get the most out of your life. What matters is having a clear purpose.

The Japanese call this concept of purposeful living ikigai - “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. Author and researcher Dan Buettner came across this concept of ikigai while studying areas of the world with the highest rates of longevity. He named these places Blue Zones, and researched the people who lived there to find the secret to their long lives.

One of these Blue Zones was in Okinawa, Japan. Here, Buettner interviewed people who were well over 100 years old and still healthy, energetic and active members of their community. A key thing they all had in common? An incredibly strong sense of personal purpose - their ikigai.

Finding your ikigai

Ask yourself why

If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you know that “why?” is their favourite go-to question. Yet when we grow up, we stop asking this question. We fall into routine and operate on autopilot, consumed with our ever-increasing schedules. Between juggling appointments, family commitments and social events, it can be hard to find time to reflect on our purpose and priorities - but it’s worth it.

Keep asking

Toddlers usually aren’t satisfied with the first answer they're given. They keep asking, because to them, an answer leads to another question. In the same way, if you want to find out your purpose, you’ve got to dig a little deeper.

Try it. Ask yourself: What’s my reason for getting up each morning? You might answer: To go to work. While that may be accurate, it’s not the whole story: what’s the reason you go to work -  is it to make a difference in your chosen industry? Is it to afford a home to raise your family in? Perhaps your answer is, To get the kids ready for school. Ask yourself why again. And again. Keep asking until you get to the underlying purpose that drives you.

Be in balance with yourself

True wellbeing means caring for your whole self. Because people in Okinawa live their lives with purpose, they live longer lives overall… which means they get even more time to live purposefully! Although they have other healthy habits too, they recognise that physical health alone isn’t enough. In the same way you exercise to keep your body fit, or do puzzles to challenge your mind, having a sense of your personal ikigai will nurture your heart and soul.

Stay focused

Take 5 minutes now to ask yourself - "what is my ikigai?". Once you’ve worked out what it is, find something that reminds you of it and place it somewhere you’ll see it when you start your day. Whether it’s a photograph on your bedside table, a note taped to your mirror or an inspiring quote on your fridge, it will help you focus and remind you of your ikigai - your reason for being.

It’s what you are living for that makes life worth living.

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