IKIGAI – Do You Have Sense of Purpose?


 Do You Have Sense of Purpose?

Author:  Dr. Nancy L. Zentis, Institute of Organization Development

Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese concept which translates to one’s sense of purpose.  Having a sense of purpose drives motivation, creates energy, increases optimism, gets your groove going, and is good for mental and physical health.  In Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book, “Keep Sharp”, he discusses the health benefits of having a sense of purpose.  People with a sense of purpose are less likely to develop health problems and are more likely to live longer.  Other research shows that having a sense of purpose helps preserve mental cognition and decreases depression, memory loss, stroke and dementia.

According to Dr. Gupta, based on the research in his 2018 Study on Global Council on Brain Health, having optimism – a positive outlook, self-acceptance, vitality and positive relationships are important elements of mental health and well-being.   Having a sense of purpose helps you have a focus, experience more energy, and creates a feeling of positivity and self-fulfillment.  Having a purpose to me is having an intention to do something to better the world.

I first experienced “Ikigai” when I realized what was important to me, what I stood for, and what I was most passionate about.  Passion created drive, and drive created success.  I enrolled in college after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. I had wanted to go to college more than anything, and I had let other priorities stand in my way. After taking one class, I experienced “Ikigai” and became determined to complete a college degree.

Making that commitment to myself wasn’t easy as I had a family to raise, so I worked two jobs while attending classes.  No matter how difficult the journey was, each morning I woke up feeling energized because I had a vision, purpose and goals.  This sense of purpose motivated me to achieve goals I never dreamed were possible.  Soon the hard work began to pay off.  I started to grow in my career, finished a master’s degree, and completed a Ph.D.  Once you’ve experienced Ikigai, and find your sense of purpose, you’ll learn what excites you, what drives your passion and what motivates you to accomplish the most difficult goals even when you are challenged.  You may have some disappointments along the way, however, you’ll be able to deal with any challenge that comes your way as long as you have a vision, goals, and sense of purpose.

How can you start your personal journey to identify your Ikigai?


First, visualization is an excellent tool to help you create a vision of success.  Imagine where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing when you’ve accomplished your vision.  Describe your vision or create a vision board.  Look at it often and remember how you’ll feel when you have achieved your dream.

Vision to Reality Diagram

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.  To help you achieve your dream, create a vision-to-reality diagram.  Draw a line from your vision to where you are now, draw a triangle, with the vision at the top, and your current reality on the bottom line.  Write down all the steps you’ll need to take to get from vision to reality on the hypotenuse.  It may take time to accomplish all the steps, but the journey is worth it.  Identify some SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Sometimes steps take different paths – that’s part of the journey! Enjoy the journey.

Action Planning

Start with the end in mind!  Identify actions you need to take for each of your goals.  Create an action plan and define what needs to be done and when.  You can use an action planning tool to define the actions and specific steps you will take, the resources needed, help from others, and then track your progress.  Define what you are working on and when it’s completed.  Review your plan frequently and update it as needed.  Having a timeline helps prevent procrastination and builds your sense of purpose.

Create a List of Accomplishments

One of the most helpful tools that will help you keep track of all that you do to support your life accomplishments is to write it down.  Write down everything that you accomplish, who was involved, describe the purpose, outcomes, and impact.  Miracles happen every day and so do accomplishments.  Give yourself feedback on the amazing things you were able to accomplish during your lifetime.  It adds up fast! You make a difference!

Manage Time Wisely

Time has a way of eroding, don’t waste it!  Time management is about life management, so if you want to get things done – have a plan for it.   Wasting time is procrastinating and there are only 24 hours in the day.  Create a plan, daily to do list, have a monthly calendar, identify your priorities, track your action plan and goals.  Evaluate how you are doing, and what you’ve accomplished.  Notice what activities were time-consuming and zapped your energy.  Also, notice what activities were energizing, engaging, and enjoyable.  Try to reduce the number of time-consuming activities and focus on those activities that energize and motivate you.  You’ll reap more rewards and get more done.

Self Determination

Ask yourself, do I have a purpose in my life in what I do?  Do I feel a sense of enjoyment and completion in my daily life?  Am I making a difference in my life or someone else’s life? Define your sense of purpose.  Do you enjoy giving back, helping others, growing your career, enjoying what life has to offer?  How would you describe your life purpose?

What is your mantra that describes your life purpose? 

Here are some positive thoughts that may help build your sense of purpose:

  • Never give up
  • Know what motives you
  • Align personal goals and values with your career
  • Have the courage to ask questions and share ideas
  • Ask for help, seek a mentor or coach
  • Seek opportunities
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Believe in yourself
  • Continue to grow and never stop learning
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities
  • Surround yourself with people who also have a sense of purpose
  • Find answers in failures and disappointment
  • Practice positive self -talk

What drives you to pursue your passions, develop your talents, help others, and make a living?


Dr. Nancy Zentis is the Chief Strategist and CEO of Institute of Organization Development (IOD), offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and Professional Development Skills for ongoing learning.  As a consultant in the field of OD for many years, Nancy is recognized for her experience in creating strategies for Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Talent Management, and Organization Development Change.  She can be reached at info@instituteod.com.  For more information about Institute OD’s certification programs and short courses, visit our website www.instituteod.com.


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