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A Japanese Phrase that Helps You Find Your Purpose

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

By: Alena You

Even though it may be a little early, it is not wrong to start thinking about what your purpose in life is. As humans, we each go through very unique experiences that impact what we are interested in. People are fueled by many different interests. There is a Japanese term called “Ikigai” that contains four main ideas: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. When you are aligned with all four ideas, you have a purpose. This is a mini-guide to help you start thinking about what your purpose could be.

What do you Love?

Do you play a sport or have a hobby you enjoy? Or do you like to volunteer or travel? Does it make you excited and do you have extending plans with those interests? It is essential to reflect and evaluate what about those interests makes you excited. If you are playing basketball, is it the adrenaline that you get from the shots you take? If you are sewing, is it the satisfaction of making a quality product after the project? Or does it simply give you peace and a sense of calm emotion? For example, my interest in math. This is because I enjoy the fact that things can be black and white and I crave structure in life. I also love to teach and find myself loving to work with people. One good way to explore this is to write a list of 5-10 things that you enjoy doing and then evaluate what you love about each thing. Once you notice these things, you will start to understand what it is that makes you aligned with what you love.

What are you good at? (Strengths and Weaknesses)

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can create better leverage for you when you are in your winning environment. Let’s say we have two people: Bob and Molly. Bob is a person who is very clean at home and focuses a lot on the little details. He likes certainty and likes to know exactly where his things are and where he is in life. He is methodical and does things step-by-step. However, Bob is afraid of change. He likes familiarity and avoids novelty. It could be possible that Bob could excel at activities like engineering, logistics, and law, due to his attention to detail, the certainty of the process, and having rules. On the other hand, we have Molly. Molly is a big-picture visionary and is always full of new ideas. She is always on top of the new trends, always moving and she likes to dream. You can always count on Molly to help you understand the new trends. She might be stronger in activities like teaching, marketing, and event planning. It is important to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and how they can help you choose the right passion.

What the World Needs

Understanding what the world needs can help propel your passion and give you a sense of purpose. It also helps reassure you that people are going to find value in your work. Let’s look at the Bob and Molly example again. Bob is really good at engineering. However, Bob wants to help people break out of prison, so this isn’t really what the world needs. On the other hand, if Molly is doing marketing to help promote a new healthcare program that gives seniors cheaper and more efficient healthcare, that is something the world needs. Start to think about what the world needs, such as climate change, education, mental health, healthcare, or the current U.S. Debt System, that you can help contribute to. It also doesn’t have to be a revolutionary topic either. This type of research is also understanding which roles will be in demand in the future.

What Can You Be Paid For

This topic is also a little early, but it is good to think about what you can be paid for. It is better that your time is spent on things you can be paid for, especially as you get older. Start studying what the market looks like for your ideal role, passion, or even hobby. You can use websites like and government websites like to look at the demand for each role and what each role pays. If you are doing something more creative, you can also look up the specific role online as well. It is valuable to look at the job postings for your ideal job, on websites such as or, so that you can prepare yourself ahead of time by getting the proper education, experience, certifications, etc. for your resume.

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