As Thomas Carlyle wrote ‘the man without a purpose is a like a ship without a rudder’. As humans we are here to seek, pursue and to do and yet so many of us are never genuinely happy.

We are not merely content to live – for we need purpose and meaning, for without purpose we are continually dissatisfied. When working towards goals and ideals we are unsatisfied but not dissatisfied.

The primary reason most people fail to discover their purpose is because they have never gotten to know their true self either because they are afraid of finding it or afraid to have a purpose which directs their lives with authentic strengths and values.

This is a critical subject for everyone because if you do not know your own purpose, it is difficult to for you to be satisfied and happy.

If you don’t know what you want, how do you know whether you fit in to your organisation’s purpose or whether it’s even the right organisation for you to be in?

Unfortunately much of our happiness is driven by our work circumstances because of the time we spend there, the financial implications and the stress it can cause.

If you are a Brit reading this, you are probably already feeling uncomfortable as we do not have a culture which encourages this thinking, but other cultures understand it well. The French talk about raison d’etre, and the Japanese believe everyone has an ‘Ikigai’ within them – the personal reason we get up in the morning, and the purpose that drives us every

single day.

Too many of us are guided by plans our parents wanted for us or what we think other people think is right for us. Many people carry on in life without stepping back and deciding who they are, how they want to live their lives and what they want from it, whether it’s belongings, relationships, freedom, esteem, happiness or whatever, the important thing is that is right for each person and them alone.

The benefits of a life purpose

Ikigai is an important concept because if you identify your Ikigai and live by it, it will have a lasting impact on your body, mind, and spirit. By understanding your Ikigai you will have a clear purpose in life, which studies have shown makes a difference to long term health and life expectancy. Medical studies of people in Okinawa where Ikigai is a core concept has


  • People live longer than rest of the world’s population
  • They suffer fewer chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart diseases.
  • Higher level of centenarians with levels of vitality and health unthinkable elsewhere
  • Their blood tests show far fewer free radicals
  • Women experience moderate symptoms of menopause and both sexes maintain higher levels of sexual hormones for longer
  • The rate of dementia is well below the global average**

Ikigai is about a complete way of life ingrained in Japanese culture but many of us haven’t identified our purpose so how can we realistically get the benefits of the thinking?

Identifying your purpose

There are many ways of doing this, but here’s an outline framework to help you identify your personal purpose to keep your life aligned with your authentic strengths and values.

Here are some key steps to get started.

  • Allocate time
    • Identify and allocate specific time in your diary, probably several sessions over a few weeks so you can reflect and refine
    • Ensure you create appropriate time, space and without distraction
  • Discover your purpose
    • Identify the clear goals for each area of your life – Family and home, Financial and career, Mental and educational, Physical and health, Social and cultural
  • It is important to consider your whole self to understand your purpose
    • Crystallising your purpose
    • Clarify, prioritise, and write down your values to help you reach your goals and purpose
  • Set goals
    • Your goal setting should be imaginative and visionary but attainable and must be a prelude to action
  • Establishing priorities
    • Outline, and commit to paper, a sequential timetable and realistic time to deliver each of your goals
  • Creating a personal mission statement
    • Write a brief, powerful summary of your reason for being.
    • No more than 3 sentences which can provide direction focus and consistency
  • Avoid distractions on your path
    • Outline things that might be stopping you identify your purpose – fear of failure, discouragement, divided loyalty, desire of approval from others. Understand these and have a plan for not letting them stop you.

Clearly, these steps are just an outline but hopefully they will help you spend some time to think about your purpose and be healthier and happier moving ahead.

The important thing is to make a start and to commit to paper which helps you commit to what you have to do.

If you would like some help in understanding your purpose and making it part of your everyday life, we can help you using a trusted learning and application framework with over 60 years of success.

Life direction, satisfaction, happiness, and health – why wouldn’t you find time to discover your own purpose – good luck!