Ikigai (ee-key-guy): Have you discovered your mission and purpose?

coaching confidence getting started monetization passions traditional jobs Nov 09, 2022

 The other day, I called my daughter Julia while she was at work and I asked her what her plans were for the rest of her day. It was Saturday afternoon and she said she really didn't have any plans at the moment, so I invited her to join me for coffee at a local coffee shop that we both enjoy. While we were there, we started talking about work and careers.

Julia is in high school, but she also works at a hair salon. Hair salons are conversation hubs, so she hears a little bit of everything from clients as well as coworkers. One pattern she's definitely noticed after interacting with hundreds of people in that conversational context is that a vast majority of the adults she talks to dislike their jobs. They do what they do to make a living, but if they ever get the chance to stop working, they will.

Both of us agreed that we wouldn't want to develop that kind of attitude toward our work. It sounds like a disappointing way to go through life. But sadly, that's the day-to-day experience most people seem resigned to. Work is something they feel like they have to do, not something they get to do. They clock in, clock out, and devote a large percentage of their waking hours doing tasks they don't really enjoy because they need to make a paycheck. Their work doesn't seem to connect to their greater sense of mission or purpose.

Sometimes, in fact, our work is connected to our sense of survival. And in a context like that, I'm all in favor of doing whatever you can ethically do to make a living, even if your work isn't something you particularly enjoy. But not every season of life is about survival. And if you aren't in survival mode, wouldn't it be nice to spend your working hours focused on something that connects to the mission and purpose for which God created you?

My role as a local church pastor certainly connects to my greater sense of mission and purpose, and for that I'm grateful. But the platforms I'm developing connect to those deeper-level concepts as well. In fact, through the platforms I've developed, I get to help more people online on a weekly basis than I get to help in person. I'm helping people grow in their faith, and I'm helping people learn the skills necessary to build online platforms that serve as an extension of their central message. It feels purposeful, and I thoroughly enjoy watching others share their passions with the world.

And that brings me to a concept that I recently discovered related to life and culture in Japan, and how some of the Japanese people are attempting to live a quality life while serving people in accordance with the ways in which God has gifted them. They call the concept "Ikigai." It's a Japanese word that can be defined as your "reason for being" or your "life purpose", and it's a philosophy that has been around for hundreds of years that attempts to answer four specific questions:


1. What do you love?

2. What are you good at?

3. What does the world need?

4. What can you get paid to do?


Now, I will admit that in no way am I an expert on ancient Japanese philosophies. I'll also admit that when I personally attempt to answer deeper-level questions about my reason for being or my life purpose, I find my answers to those questions through my relationship with my Creator. But from a platform development perspective, and from the perspective of developing online businesses that convey a central message, I find these four questions that have been discussed for centuries in Japan quite helpful. These are some of the biggest questions that we need to be able to answer when developing our online businesses, programs, blogs, podcasts, and products.

If you're interested in developing an online platform, you'll need to discover your central message. You need to be clear about the message you're called to share, otherwise, your platform is going to flounder. So let's use these questions to help figure this out. (By the way, if you're interested in adding a coaching program to your platform, these four questions might be a good tool for you to file away for when others come to you for counsel.)


1. What do you love?

That's the first question in this metric. So let's attempt to answer it for ourselves. There are things you feel intrinsically drawn to. Personally, I love all kinds of issues related to spiritual growth, marriage, leadership, entrepreneurship, communication, and platform development. Those loves are obviously reflected in the multiple platforms I facilitate.

What do you love? I suspect the list is long and has some variety. I also suspect that there are one or two things that rise to the top of your list. That's probably where you need to focus your time and energy if you're going to develop a successful online platform.


2. What are you good at?

It's possible to love things that we aren't necessarily good at. I love good food, but in no way am I a good cook. To be honest with you, I have less than zero interest in cooking which just about guarantees I'm not going to be good at it. But I'm good at teaching and speaking. I'm good at writing and recording. The content I'm creating is being used by a lot of people, so in some respects, I guess I must be good at marketing as well.

The things we're good at are often things we enjoy doing (or at least enjoyed at some point in our lives). Typically, we get good at the things we do with regularity. I know people who are good at storytelling. I know others who are good at coaching mothers, or helping people develop business plans, or repairing homes and vehicles. If you can dial in on what you're good at, you're going to be much closer to finding work or developing an online platform you enjoy.


3. What does the world need?

There are things that I love and I'm good at, but this world doesn't need in any measurable way. I think it would be a mistake for me to attempt to develop a business or a platform around those things because no one cares about them besides me. In the brick-and-mortar business world, I have seen businesses come and go that were tied to the passions of the founders, but didn't ultimately fulfill the needs of others.

But if something you love and are good at aligns with something this world desperately needs, you're well on your way to finding a way to serve people that might potentially have a major impact. And frequently, you can discern what this world needs from you by listening closely to the kind of help people often ask you to give them.


4. What can you get paid to do?

In the world of online platform development, most of the things we get paid to do are things that can be digitally delivered. Can you identify something you love and are good at that meets a need AND can be digitally delivered online through a service, a form of content, specialized training, speaking, or coaching? If so, you're well on your way to developing a successful platform.


So give these questions some thought if you're in the process of developing your platform OR if you've been working on your platform for a little while and you're getting ready to take it to the next level. This is a good formula to help you serve others, earn an income, and enjoy the tasks you're involved in. In no way do I believe this solves the deeper question of the "meaning of life," but I do believe this can be a helpful metric to use when you're trying to discern how best to focus your efforts and which steps you need to take next.


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