Why & How to Find Your Purpose: Unpacking the Concept of Ikigai

Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

ikigai - purpose over profits

Why do you wake up in the morning?

Some will say for their family. Some will say to earn a living. Some will say to pursue their passion.

What makes it all worth it for you?

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 69% of Americans say their families give meaning to their lives. Others point to their career (34%), finances and money (23%), and faith and spirituality (20%) when asked what provides fulfillment to their daily existence.

But, let’s be honest. It’s not an easy question to answer for anyone.

For professionals like you, what comes first? Is it purpose over profits… or the other way around? Let’s discuss.

Ikigai: Your Reason for Being

I’ve come across this concept several times, but, it was in Mark Schaefer’s Cumulative Advantage that I was struck by it. Particularly, I love how he ended his book by referring to ikigai. In Mark Schaefer’s life plan, he could have been the Tim Ferriss of his industry. He could have shared the stage with Oprah. But, he didn’t chase success like that. As he says, “I chose not to. It didn’t fit with my life plan.”

Like Mark, many of us spend years or our entire lives trying to grow and learn. We long for fulfillment. But unlike Mark, some sacrifice everything in search of wealth or fame – and lose sight of ikigai in the process.

So what is ikigai?

In Japan, the concept for ikigai came to be. It roughly translates to “reason for being.” It’s essentially the reason you wake up in the morning. It’s that driving force that pushes you to do things. It’s the one that makes you smile. In short, it’s knowing what your purpose is in life.

This Japanese ideology has been linked to the secret for a long and happy life. Akihiro Hasegawa, who published a research paper on ikigai, explains that the small joys of the Japanese in their everyday life result in a more fulfilling life as a whole.

Hector Garcia, the co-author of the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, illustrates ikigai as the intersection of four things:

  • That which you love: your passion and mission
  • That which you are good at: your passion and profession
  • That which you can be paid for: your passion and vocation
  • That which the world needs: your vocation and mission

Note: Finding your ikigai does not have a manual. Some might have discovered their ikigai when they were young, while others need to dig deeper to find out what makes life worthwhile.

How to Find Your Ikigai

The meeting point of your passion, mission, profession, and vocation is your ikigai.

For the centenarians in Okinawa, Japan, who attribute their life expectancy to finding their ikigai, finding your purpose entails having a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy relationships.

As a professional or a business owner, the same applies. You need to look at yourself in the mirror and ask why you’re in business. What impact can you make to the people you are catering to and the people you are working with? What can you give back so the world will be a better place?

Knowing the purpose of your business, just like in real life, can be linked to your brand’s potential overall well-being and longer life.

Here are some tips on how you can find your ikigai for your business:

1. Keep Brainstorming and Take Action

To find that sweet spot and define your purpose, you need to do some introspection. You need to find out if you can do what you love doing while making money and making a difference. When you find that answer, remember it doesn’t end there.

Ikigai is a balancing act. It is not static, and you have to make adjustments along the way. Don’t force yourself to do something you’re not happy doing anymore. If a big project comes along, but it doesn’t trigger your passion, then you have the freedom to say “Pass.”

Your purpose during the early days of your brand will be different from your purpose after a few years.

Your struggles will keep evolving, including everyone and everything around you. For that, you need to keep brainstorming to find your focus. Along the way, learn from the mistakes you might commit but don’t forget to celebrate your small wins.

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2. Listen to What Your Customers Are Saying

What your customers say about your products or services is the true state of your brand. Everything is about customer experience, and if they’re not happy, you’ll see your following and your sales go down the drain.

If your business gets positive reviews online, 92% of consumers will likely purchase after reading them. According to a survey, customers are also willing to spend 31% more when a business has excellent reviews.

Conversely, four of five consumers change their minds about a recommended purchase upon reading negative reviews.

Listening to your customers doesn’t only help you discover what truly matters for your business, but also what truly matters to the market you’re serving. It helps you improve and even innovate. When you listen, you convince people to keep doing business with you. Moreover, happy customers will buy more of your products or services.

3. Think Smaller to Make a Difference

We often hear experts say to think of the bigger picture, but when discovering your ikigai, you need to think smaller.

You need to find your motivation, and most of the time, you’ll find it when you understand how your work improves other people’s lives. You need to put yourself in their shoes and ask how you’ll matter to them. Consider how paying attention to details can make them happy.

When you think smaller, you’ll understand the pain points of the market you’re serving. Knowing their pain points will help you do business differently than your competitors. And that will make you stand out from the rest.

Knowing your purpose can help define your path toward success.

Your Personal Ikigai: The Pursuit of Purpose vs. the Pursuit of More

If you lead an organization or work as an employee for a business, your personal ikigai should be in tune with the purpose of the brand. Everything should be connected so you can find genuine happiness while following your passion and positively impacting others.

Going after profits will surely grow your bank account, but money doesn’t buy happiness. The pursuit of profit is not enough these days. Instead, businesses should pursue purpose.

1. Purpose Draws Customers and Promotes Brand Loyalty

According to a recent study, consumers tend to do business with brands that take care of their employees, treat the environment well, and support the community they operate in. When businesses align themselves with doing good, they build a strong connection with their customers.

To further amplify the importance of knowing your purpose, when it comes to brand loyalty, almost 8 in 10 Americans are more loyal to purpose-driven businesses. About 67% of consumers feel purpose-driven brands care more about them compared to traditional brands.

These findings put the spotlight on reflecting your brand’s identity and making significant changes to serve your true purpose.

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2. Purpose Leads to Innovation and Profits

Profit is the icing on the cake for businesses that have purpose as their core.

When executives around the world were surveyed, a study by Harvard Business Review found that 84% of businesses with shared purpose were more successful in their innovation and transformation efforts.

The said study categorized companies as prioritizers or those with clearly articulated and understood purpose, developers or those who understood their purpose better than others, and laggards or those who does not have a well understood or communicated purpose.

Among these groups, the prioritizers performed better than the developers and laggards. Almost 60 percent of the prioritizers experienced growth by 10% or more in the last three years. Meanwhile, 42% of laggards reported a flat or diving revenue compared to 19% of developers and just 15% of prioritizers.

Purpose should be your driving force when making decisions that can help create gains for your customers. It will be your ikigai to craft strategies that will eventually lead to innovation and growth.

3. Purpose Fuels True Impact

Your entrepreneurial ikigai will determine your true impact on your customers’ experience and to society.

When you find your purpose, you discover that you’re just a small part of the equation to make a difference. To help your customers or the people around you, to give what you can to society, and to serve a bigger purpose – you lose yourself for this bigger mission in life.

When you serve your purpose, you will start a ripple effect. From within, you can influence your customers, suppliers, and business partners to do good and shape a better future for everyone. The value it creates is far more significant than whatever amount in your bank account.

Find Your Ikigai, Find Your Purpose and Grow Your Own Brand

As for me, my #1 passion is writing. It’s also my vocation, calling, and purpose.

I used my ikigai to build a million-dollar content writing agency from nothing. It has been an incredible journey so far, and I’d love for you to join me.

If you’re ready to use your passion, purpose, and skills to build your online business to great heights…

Apply today for my mentorship program, The Content Transformation System, where I help you discover your purpose and teach you how to build and scale your brand.

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