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Find your passion in life to find your purpose (ikigai)

posted in: Ikigai | 1

What is your passion in life? Is there something that you truly live for? What do you enjoy doing the most? Find the answers to those questions and you will be well on your way to enjoying your ikigai.

Simply, ikigai is the Japanese concept meaning one’s “purpose in life.” It is believed that everyone has ikigai which can be found through your passion in life. Should you find yours, it is said that you can live a long and prosperous life.

Of course, everyone’s ikigai is unique and can be as flexible and forever changing as you like. You can use your ikigai to focus on a meaningful life for yourself or you can use it to change the world around you if you so choose. Perhaps both at the same time.

Your ikigai can be as simple as a hobby or something much bigger. All or even just part of your ikigai may be to volunteer in your community. For some, it is a side job. There are even those who are fortunate enough to make a lifelong profession from it.

Indeed it is your choice.

However, In any case, the most essential part of your ikigai is, your passion in life or what you love to do.

What is your passion in life? What do you live for? Find the answers to those questions and you will be well on your way to enjoying your ikigai.

What are you passionate about?

Now, all you need to do is answer that simple question and you will know your purpose in life. Easy, right? *Shout hallelujah at any time now.*

If only it were that simple.

For many of us, there is sometimes a gap between knowing what we like to do and understanding our passions. It can be somewhat of a grey-zone in which you might need a heightened sense of self-realization to find your true passion.

For example, someone may enjoy both cooking and also enjoy gardening, but might be truly passionate about one or the other. Perhaps, they take great pride in growing their own vegetables, but as much as they enjoy preparing a delicious meal with them, they are uninterested in expanding their repertoire of dishes or maybe even see cooking as more of a necessity than a passion.

In other words, gardening has a special place in the heart, a passion that one advocates. If one builds from such a place, indeed they can change the world – or at the very least – change what’s on the menu.

Man with binoculars searching
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Finding your passion in life

Finding your passion in life may not be an easy task. So, if you are having a bit of trouble identifying what excites you, try taking a moment to be mindful of the present. Workout your thoughts by focusing on some things you know to be true. Perhaps, start off easy and work your way to more thought-provoking questions. Your goal should be to open yourself up to honesty and discover what motivates you.

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. – Oprah Winfrey

But just remember, the point is not to find any quick or temporary answer to your search, but rather to identify in specific terms what charges you. To do that, you may want to explore some approaches to see if you can’t capture a glimpse at what excites you and gives you the energy to move in that direction.

Rocks representing little things in life to find passion
Image by Ralf Kunze

Get excited about the little things in life

Day in and day out we go through life thinking that one day we will see the sign leading us to our life purpose. It will come in some form of epiphany or sign from God that illuminates our path. And while for many this is indeed true for so many, for others such claps of thunder or a burning bush may be long overdue.

Perhaps though, there are such miracles all around us. It’s just that we can’t trust our own ability to see them as such. The signs that supposedly lead us to enlightenment may, in fact, be much more subtle and easily overlooked. They may be before us right now, all along. It begs the question, “Would you know it if you saw it?”

The answer would depend on not only how you perceive things, but also how often. For example, how often you wake up early to watch the sunrise? Do you often take notice of how the light warms your face? How does it make you feel? Invigorated? Emotional? Do you tell your friends about it?

Of course, that is just an example, however, enjoying such little things in life can carry you a long way.

Make a practice of it. Put yourself in situations where you can experience the wonderful parts of life. By doing so you might be more apt to see the sort of signs that lead you to your passions in life. They will surely unfold around you more often than you think, compelling you to do something meaningful and positive, which is as close to any miracle as it gets.

Be mindful of your preferences

As a simple exercise, stop and think for a moment what you are doing and why. What brought you to this place? How do you feel about it? What do you like about it and what do you dislike about it?

Think back over the past couple of days or weeks. Try to identify two or three things that moved you or made you feel a certain way, whether it was happy or sad, frustrated or motivated, etc. What were the events that led up to the point of feeling that way? Think about where you were and what you were doing when you felt that way. Bring back those memories and try to verbalize the entire moment to yourself, committing it to memory.

Next, make a choice about those feelings and more importantly, recognize the causes that created them as something you value. Take a moment to ask yourself what it was that made you feel that way and identify specific turning points. Categorize the moments into different feelings if you must, but more importantly, determine whether or not it is something you want to repeat.

Of course, if it was something you disliked, make an effort not to repeat it. On the other hand, if it was something that you enjoyed, ask yourself if you could enjoy it again. Furthermore, consider what you can do to get to that point again? Could you advocate for it to others?

Knowing and being mindful of specific moments and feelings in your life are great indicators to the kind of life you would most likely enjoy. Repeat what brings you joy and discard the discomfort and drama. Your passion in life will naturally present itself.

Team holding hands to represent harmony in passion
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Be true to your aspirations in life and those of others

Creating a sustainable sense of harmony within yourself takes commitment to yourself. You must accept yourself first. Once you have a good idea of who you are and who you are not, it is easier to create a happier and more purposeful life. 

You will begin to see what is important to you and what you can direct your attention towards. In turn, you will also accept what is important to others and respect them for it. Your behavior towards them will align with your beliefs and core values.

Take for instance how you interact with others. If you are mindful of your effect towards your personal harmony and the harmony of others, then you can adjust to any situation without stress.

For instance, I would always get frustrated with my boss. I was not that close with her and I had difficulty in reasoning with her until I realized that although my aspirations were much different, hers were equally her own. Once I accepted this, I was able to follow my passions while she followed hers without any friction between us. I am happy to say that we now have a better, more mutual understanding of each other and can enjoy each other’s company even though we still don’t see eye to eye.

In essence, be true to yourself and others. Come to terms with what excites you and gets your blood flowing. Understand that not everybody has the same thoughts and feelings as you, and their beliefs are just as valid. Take the time to listen to them and share the things that you are knowledgeable about or what you are interested in.

Person learning new things
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Learn something new, a new passion in life

Now that we are getting closer to finding a little more about your passion in life, it is time for more practical action. Let’s start however with a hypothetical question, “If time and money were not obstacles, would you study something new, restudy a subject you used to be interested in, or not put any effort into it?”

I hope you picked one of the first two choices.

Educating yourself doesn’t have to be a huge project, an accredited degree, or even something you have to purchase. It could be as simple as hopping over to Amazon and picking up that book you’ve been wanting to read or clicking over to YouTube for a “How to” video. You could revisit an old hobby or something you loved doing in your childhood. Maybe find something new, a pastime that relaxes you and makes you feel at ease.

Whatever it may be, you should encourage yourself to continue learning throughout your entire life. Even if for just a little time each week. You will find that committing yourself to periodic study will not only build knowledge and skill, but also motivate towards your passion. It will open you up to sharing this newly found knowledge and prompt you to share more with others, creating better moments in life.

Seedlings as a metaphor to begin living your passion
Image by Myriam Zilles

Release yourself

One of the biggest challenges to following your passion in life is overcoming your fears. Fears can stop you in your tracks. They can impede your progress to live the life you really want to live. And it is imperative that you release yourself from them. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to continue on a path to where you fully accept yourself.

Remove perfectionism

Indeed, there are perfectionist fears, meaning that one’s skills or ideas are not fully formed yet. Release yourself from this. Say to yourself, “I know it’s not perfect, but I will do it anyway.”

Do away with social fears

There are social fears where one worries too much. Insecurities raise doubt. “What will they think of me?” Release yourself from the notion that you have to be, act, or think any certain way in fear of what others might say. Say to yourself, “I know it’s a little weird, but I will do it anyway.”

Remove the fear of failure

Also, of course, there is the fear of failure which encompasses all fears at some level. Release yourself from such pressure. It is unnecessary. Surely you’ve heard, “It’s okay to fail,” over a million times, and it is worth repeating: “It’s okay.”

Once you truly realize that it is okay and everything will be just fine, you will understand that the one and only thing you have to do if you fall is, to get back up. If you started once before then you could, and should, start once again. There is nothing stopping you or saying you shouldn’t.

If you find that you are doubting yourself, just say, “I know that I haven’t a clue, but I will do it anyway. I am going to give it a shot!” Incidentally, this is the best way to stop fear in its tracks.

Fear has no comeback when you say, “I know.” In other words, you can conquer those fears by releasing yourself from them and giving yourself permission to act on what makes you happy. Have the courage to do this and you will surely discover new frontiers.

The best time to start living your passion in life

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now. – Chinese proverb.

Far too many people do not follow their dreams and give up without even trying. They put their aspirations on some kind of shelf and their dreams and passions take a back seat to “life.” In reality, however, it is just an excuse. Somehow, somewhere, they unwittingly gave up on their passions.

The truth is, your passion in life is not out of reach from you. It may not come immediately, certainly not overnight, but it will come if you let it. Just know that following your passion is lifelong. It is a journey that never ends, but also forever changing. And that is the beauty of ikigai.

What excited you yesterday may not be what excites you now. And you may not even have all of the answers to what you want to do right now, but that doesn’t mean you should stop looking for them.

Now it is time for you to decide to get on the right track. Follow through with your dreams. Make a conscious effort to take the next step and you will see that you can just as easily take the following one, and so on. It gets easier over time and sooner than later you will find yourself living a truly long and enjoyable life. Don’t waste another minute!

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