Living a life of purpose has been linked with longer and happier lives. Studies have shown that losing purpose can have detrimental effects on a person’s well being and overall life.

As a quote from the movie The Matrix Reloaded, goes: “There’s no escaping reason, no denying purpose, for as we both know, without purpose we would not exist. It is purpose that created us, purpose that connects us, purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us; it is purpose that defines, purpose that binds us.”

A great model that helps us put this truth in a better perspective is the Japanese concept of ikigai. It doesn’t have an exact English translation but roughly it means “the reason that makes you jump out of bed each morning” or “the thing that you live for”. In essence, it distills down to having a purpose in life. 

This concept has its origins in the Japanese island of Okinawa, that is said to have the largest population of the most elderly people in the world. In his TED Talk, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic reporter and author of Blue Zones: Lessons on Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, suggests ikigai as one of the reasons people in this location has had such long lives. 

According to this concept, if you want to find purpose in your life,  you have to answer the following questions:

  1. What do I love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can I get paid for?
Image Courtesy: Toronto Star

Hence, as shown in the image, ikigai is nothing but the convergence of these four elements:

  1. Passion — what are you good at + what you love
  2. Mission — what you love + what the world needs
  3. Vocation — what the world needs + what you can be paid for
  4. Profession — what you can be paid for + what you are good at

Finding the balance between these four areas is the key to bringing happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment and excitement in your life; you have a life you look forward to living influencing you to live longer and healthier, and make a significant contribution to the world.