5 ways to embrace your Ikigai and bring more purpose and meaning into your life

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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl

Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions of life, lacking direction and purpose?

In today’s chaotic world, so many of us are feeling unfulfilled and lacking a sense of purpose in our lives.  No matter what stage of life we are at, from starting or changing careers or entering retirement, it can be challenging to find out what truly brings us joy and meaning.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai, the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning or your reason for being is very powerful.

In Japanese culture, not keeping your mind and body busy is seen as being bad for your health. The people of Japan keep doing what they love, what they are good at, and what the world needs, even after they have retired. This is one of the key reasons they have the longest life expectancy in the world.

In this article, I’m going to give strategies and tips to help you discover your ikigai at any age or stage of your life.

Whether you’re looking to change careers, relocate somewhere completely new, start a passion project, or just gain a greater sense of purpose, these strategies will help guide you on your journey towards living a more meaningful life.

Later in the article, I will give some tips on finding your ikigai, to those of you who may be considering retirement.

How to find your Ikigai and embrace it

1) The importance of understanding your values

We can find meaning in being true to ourselves, in living a life aligned with our core values. Taking time to work on your core values is an important part of increasing your satisfaction in life.

You can think of your values as a compass that helps you set a direction and then stay on track during the journey.

Your values describe how you want to behave as a person and act in all situations throughout your life. They are how you want to treat yourself and others and the world around you. Values are in essence how you are true to yourself.

2) Living a values-based life vs a solely goals-focused life

I am a great supporter of having goals but not just any goals. The goals I set must be aligned to my core values.  When I am working on the goals I want to achieve and the actions I will take, I always ask myself whether they are aligned with my values.

There have been a few times when I have decided to take a different course of action because of this question, and I am so pleased I did.

In living a values-based life, we still set goals, but they are aligned to our values.  The goals have more meaning and are more satisfying. Because we are living by our values and acting on them, we tend to be more in the present and appreciate what we have. If we don’t achieve our goals, we are still living a successful life.

Goals give me purpose and something to strive for. I may or may not achieve those goals, but I know that those goals I have set, give me direction and momentum, put me on a path, and give me energy to make changes.

Through the roller coaster of a life with all its ups and downs, it comforts me to know that I live my life aligned to these values even if I did not achieve those goals.

Living according to our values gives us meaning on who we are and how we live.  Having meaning, even in the small moments of life, gives us purpose and motivation to take action.

These are all vital ingredients to our wellbeing and happiness and are vital in all stages of our life.

3) The power of hope in our lives

One of the most influential books over the last eighty years is Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning with its descriptions of his and others lives and experiences in Nazi death camps in WW2 and its lessons for spiritual survival.

In Man’s Search for Meaning Frankl, argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose and hope.

During his horrific time in the camps, rather than thinking about the life he left behind, Frankl focused on finding meaning in every little moment. He found that prisoners who had something to live for and found meaning, were the ones that survived. The ones who gave up hope and lost meaning in their lives didn’t live long.

Frankl created the theory of logotherapy which is based on the premise that the primary human drive is to find individual purpose and meaning in life. Meaning can be found in even the smallest of details and can change at any time.

It does not matter what challenges we have in life. There are many things we cannot control. Even when everything seems out of our control, we can choose our own attitude and therefore establish meaning in whatever situation we are in.

 A famous quote from Frankl says it all. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Man’s Search for Meaning is a tribute to the power of hope in our lives.

4) Success is a journey not a destination

It is actually the journey that is more important than the outcome. In many cases, goals may change as you work your way through them.

The real benefit of setting and pursuing your goals is not just in the goals themselves but in the person you become as a result.

It is about choosing to act authentically, stepping out of your comfort zone and growing, learning more about yourself, your strengths, capacity for resilience and your potential.

It is about consciously changing your habits and behaviours. In many ways, you are reflecting on what you need to change within yourself. In doing so, you are changing emotionally, leaning into those uncomfortable feelings that need to be addressed.

This is what leads to sustainable change and can enhance all facets of your life.

5) Having a Growth mindset

In making a conscious choice to improve your life circumstances and your wellbeing, you learn more about yourself, your patterns of behaviour, your values, what gives you energy and motivates you, what it is that really matters to you in this life and finally what gives you purpose and meaning.

This is no different at people at any stage of their life.  The term lifelong learning is apt. We continue to learn, evolve and grow our whole life.

How to find your ikigai and live your best life in retirement

1) Define your goals and values: Take the time to define your goals for retirement. What do you want to accomplish in this new phase of your life? What are your priorities and aspirations? What values do you live by? Having a clear understanding of your goals and values can help you focus on what’s important and create a sense of purpose and meaning.

2) Discover new interests and keep learning: This stage of your life can be a time to try new hobbies and interests that you’ve always wanted to try. Consider taking classes to learn new skills, joining a club or organization, or volunteering in your community. These activities can help you stay active and engaged.

3) Plan for travel and adventure: Consider planning trips and adventures to places you’ve always wanted to visit. Traveling can provide you with new experiences, new perspectives, and a sense of adventure.

4) Stay connected with friends and family: Transitions like this can be a time when people experience a sense of isolation or loss of social connections. To avoid this, stay connected with friends and family, and consider joining social groups or clubs to meet new people.

5) Give back to your community: This can be a time to give back to your community through volunteering or charitable work. Helping others can provide a sense of purpose and meaning and contribute to your own sense of wellbeing.

6) Consider part-time work or consulting: Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your working life. Consider part-time work or consulting opportunities that allow you to use your skills and expertise in a flexible and meaningful way but at the same time gives you the time to do other activities you want.

To finish off, finding your Ikigai is essential to live a fulfilling life with a sense of purpose, regardless of your age or stage in life. Embracing your Ikigai will help you find meaning, enjoy the journey, and become the person you aspire to be, leading to a more fulfilling and happy life.

Remember that you have the power to choose your attitude and create meaning in every situation, so take charge of your life, discover your Ikigai, and live the life you love!

Check out my video here on embracing your ikigai.  At the end of the video I talk about a free 5-day Reset Your Life Compass Challenge to help you navigate your way to a meaningful and purposeful life you love.

Jeanette Brown

I have been in Education as a teacher, career coach and executive manager over many years.
I'm also an experienced coach who is passionate about supporting people in finding real meaning and purpose in their lives, building a resilient, grounded inner self and achieving their desired goals.

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