What Is Your Reason For Being?

What is your reason for being?

The Japanese have a concept they call ikigai. It is roughly translated as “a reason for being.”

It refers to the reason why you wake up each day. That is, it is your purpose for living. It’s the reason why you do what you do.

Some describe ikigai as the intersection between:

  1. What you love.
  2. What the world needs.
  3. What you can be paid for.
  4. What you’re good at.

There are those who seem to have been born knowing their ikigai. They know exactly what they were put on this earth to do. They are passionate about it, and they can’t not do it. It’s what many call their “life’s calling.”

I’ve been really hung up on this lately. Because, even at my age (49), I’m still not sure what my ikigai is. Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect God to reveal it to me somehow. Maybe he will someday. Until then, I write on this blog. Because it’s the closest thing I can think of that sits in the intersection of those four items above.

I have an idea of what I love and what I’m good at. I’ve even gone through many different personality and strengths and passion-finding exercises for further confirmation. But I haven’t identified anything I would say with absolute certainty is my ikigai.

What usually happens is that I bounce around trying different things. I go down one path and then I start to think maybe I’m just wasting my time. My motivation lags and then I decide that it’s a sign that what I’m doing isn’t it–that there’s something else I should be doing.

And so I quit. Until the next thing comes along. And one more time through the cycle I go.

It’s somewhat comforting to know that I’m not alone in this regard. I’ve come across many people like myself.

Sometimes I think that my problem isn’t that I haven’t “discovered” my ikigai. It’s that I haven’t really given any one thing a chance.

I kept thinking that I had to find a perfect 10. But maybe my list of options only includes 1s through 6s.

Perhaps it’s as simple as just choosing the best of what is available to me (one of the 6s) and then give it my best effort. Instead of quitting when my motivation lags, I act as if what I’m doing is my ikigai. And hope that it will become just that in my heart and mind.

I suppose you could say this is a “fake it til you make it” sort of thing. But perhaps it’s  simply exercising my power to choose. And having faith that what I’m doing is not futile; that it’s not meaningless. That, in fact, it has meaning because I decide that it does. I get to define the significance of it. I get to “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17).

This line of thought reminds of the great sushi chef Jiro Ono. Here’s a guy who chose to dedicate his life to making great sushi. Who knows, maybe he was born with a passion for it. But I don’t believe so. Here’s what he says at the very beginning of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi:

Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.

What do you think? What is your ikigai? Is it something you’ve always known?