Finding Joy by Committing to Your Life’s Purpose

In the international best selling book, IKIGAI, the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, the authors explore what it is that is unique about the world’s Blue Zones…those rare places where people live longer and happier than anywhere else. The book puts a special focus on the Japanese island of Okinawa where many residents live to over 100 with remarkable mental and physical acuity. The keys, not surprisingly, include eating healthy, moving your body and having a community of people who truly care for one other.

But the real foundation described in the book and studies cited is found in the Japanese word “Ikigai” which roughly translates to “purpose.”

Purpose is a hot topic right now in career strategy and corporate branding. One of the exciting things about the transformation our society is going through is an enlightenment about the need to be purpose-driven. Of all the factors that lead to a long, joyous life, following your purpose or Ikigai is the most profound.

So what’s your purpose? Do you know? Celebrate the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for. The place where these essential elements for life overlap is your own personal Ikigai. The home where your joy resides.   

So how do you find it? I think the simple answer to unlock the potential of your joy is honesty. Shed the fears, the narratives others have shared based on their own fears, the confusion of what a valuable or successful life looks like. Clear it all out and find the truth behind these four key elements: love, talent, demand and compensation.

Love in this context is what moves you. What you are passionate about. What you care deeply about.

Talent is that wonderful blending of natural, innate skills you were born with, what was nurtured along the way, and the education, both formal and experiential, that you have amassed.

Demand is a sober look at not only the need by others for what you do, but the value and urgency they place on that ability.

Finally, whether there is a demand or not for your talents and passion, can you find compensation from others at a level where you can sustain a joyful life without the distraction of status or envy?  

We should all take on the responsibility of finding the coordinates of our joy. Why? Because our Ikigai is actually a very human thing to pursue. It is not only fulfilling, but sustainable. As long as you’re at peace with the trappings of the life it represents.

The proof that committing to your Ikigai brings joy lies in the long lives and the quality of those lives in the world’s Blue Zones, exemplified by the good folks of Okinawa. It is within reach for each of us, especially if you honestly weigh up where your Ikigai resides.

Here’s to joyful, purpose-driven lives.


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Photo: Kristen McKellogg

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