For teenagers and young people, let alone adults, the idea of living with purpose can seem confusing and beyond reach.

Expectations of success and a clear understanding of what you want to do with your life are harsh. Especially for late teens and young adults in their early twenties. It feels hard to define what purpose is.

Without a guide, it’s easy to overthink which elements of life are the most important and question how to live life purposely. And if you search too hard, you can chase your tail, feel lost and rudderless in a sea of angst.

What if there was a helpful guide you could show your child?

The Japanese have figured out a framework for this puzzle. They call it Ikigai: it’s a reason to get up in the morning, a reason for being.


Looking at the diagram above, you can see that Ikigai happens when four separate elements in one’s life overlap. Each has equal importance.


  1. What you love (passion)

  2. What you are good at (vocation)

  3. What you can be paid for (profession)

  4. What the world needs (mission)


According to the Japanese, if you can find or create something that ticks all these boxes, you’ve found Ikigai. You will get up each morning with a spring in your step and feel like you have a reason to be. Sound good?

Listen, I’m no expert and my kids are barely out of the blocks but I like the look of Ikigai. I’m planning on using it as a discussion with my kids when they’re a bit older. An idea to tuck behind my ear for later. Perhaps it might influence what path they set themselves on and what they go on to do with their lives.

My thoughts on Ikigai and motivating children to find their purpose.

I’d like one day to ask my children: “What do you enjoy doing? What can you lose time doing?” I’d like to reassure them that enjoying what they do is critical long term and will keep them motivated to work hard and overcome obstacles with innate determination.

However, enjoying the work may be as much about attitude and approach than the work itself.

Asking “What is your passion?” can be an intimidating question to ponder. Terri Trespicio, in her TED talk, says it’s wrong to feel like you have one passion to seek out and find. She says, “passion is not a sport, job or hobby. It’s the full force of your attention and energy to whatever’s in front of you.”

Encouraging this level of focus in children, no matter the work, seems absolutely key.

I’d hope to continue to educate my children on social and environmental issues. Give them more chances to find one they care about. If they can connect with a cause that is close to their heart, it will catalyse and motivate them to take action – to do what the world needs.

To make a difference.

I’d want to ask them to reflect about their strengths and consider playing to them. What are they good at? How could they use these strengths?

I’d reassure them about money.

Reassure them that if they can pursue something with laser focus that they are naturally good at and it happens to be something that the world needs, then the purpose at the end of the rainbow is all the gold they’d need.

What do you think of Ikigai?

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