How to Discover Your Purpose: Finding your "reason for being"
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to “a reason for being,” or purpose in life. In its simplest form, ikigai identifies the sweet spot—your purpose—as the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at.
According to the principle of ikigai, your purpose arises from living in alignment with your values. Recognizing and appreciating your own purpose fosters satisfaction and fulfillment, because you feel confident in knowing you are honoring what you value.
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People struggling with addiction often lose their values, which can result in guilt that erodes self-worth and reason for being. In the following video, certified addiction recovery specialist Jean Berry talks about how core values can help guide people through the recovery process.
It is undeniable that having a sense of purpose helps direct your journey, providing motivation and inspiration. But I also believe that your life’s journey helps you formulate and identify your purpose. I think this is a cyclical rather than linear relationship.
I don’t believe that we are meant to approach life as a never-ending quest to “find our purpose.” We are here and it’s our own responsibility to design a fulfilling and balanced life. It’s up to us to decide what we find important, to discover and foster our skills and talents, to experience life and explore passions, and to determine and uphold our core values.
While I don’t like the idea of treating life like a quest—a long and difficult search for something, I do think it can be useful to evaluate your life as a means of formulating your current “reason for being.”
While there is no single way to discover your life’s purpose, here are a few questions you can ask yourself in order to think about your current purpose.
What makes me feel alive? What inspires me to do better or be better? What puts a fire in my belly?
What are my innate strengths? What am I good at?
Where/how do I add value? What problems do I enjoy solving?
How will I measure my life? What are my core values?
Jot down your answers to these questions. See how your responses come together. What similarities do you see? What do your responses have in common? Do your answers center on one issue, value, or cause? Now the tough question: are you living in a way that supports this purpose? If you’re not, then it’s time to start re-evaluating your current path.
If you struggle to answer these questions with anything positive, consider talking with someone you trust (friend, spouse, or counselor) to address your feelings.
Stating Your Purpose
Use your notes from the guiding questions above to formulate your own life purpose. Use a version of the following template or craft your own statement.
The purpose of my life is to ____ (ACTION) using my ____ (SKILL/STRENGTH) so that/in order to ___ (OUTCOME).
So you might come up with something like this:
The purpose of my life is to foster a love of reading using my passion for storytelling and my love of writing in order to develop a new generation of young learners.
The purpose of my life is to use my experience and knowledge to help people struggling with substance abuse reclaim their mind, body, and spirit in order to lead their own purpose-driven life.
Purposes are Not Permanent
Many people find that their purpose changes throughout their life. My sister now finds purpose in helping people recover from addiction, but this was not her purpose as a young woman; this purpose arose from her journey through the hell of addiction. Be open to evolution without the worry that you are suddenly “lost” because your life has changed. Our life’s journey may lead us to new opportunities, which can usher in new skills, passions, and values. So while it’s helpful to think about your purpose right now, understand that your purpose may grow and evolve as you do.
The Importance of Discovering Your Purpose
I really connect with these words from German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche: “He who has a why can endure any how.” To me, this means that as long as we find a powerful reason for being, we can make it through the challenges life throws at us. When you feel passion, excitement, and value in your life, it’s easier to find the strength to power through the tough stuff. So taking some time to think about the questions I listed above can help you discover any low spots on your Wellness Wheel, the unbalanced points that lead to a bumpy ride.
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Written by Laura B. Demers, © 2020 Reclamation Sisters