Coffee with Ali: How To Find Your Purpose

Finding your Purpose

Whats the point of living? Why wake up each morning doing something I don’t necessarily like? I’m constantly feeling stagnant? Surely there is a reason of my existence? What can I do with my life? These are just some questions I’ve asked and have been asked, when it comes to finding a purpose in ones life. In my recent article I shared my thoughts on how, especially during these days of the pandemic, to reset your spirit through acceptance and submission, reviewing your purpose and forging a path forward. I received some truly tremendous feedback on this mantra and one close friend stated it sparked thoughts on struggling to find her own purpose. This is someone who was already a successful corporate leader, entrepreneur and role model. Dangerous as it was for me to make someone of that calibre think, arguably it was more dangerous in turn to make me think! For sure, the question of how to find, or define your own purpose is such a loaded premise, it’s easy to imagine how daunting it can be, whoever you are, because it is. So I wanted to share my approach which loosely follows the Japanese tradition of Ikigai.

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Diagram of Japanese ikigai concept. Vector illustration

Ikigai is a Japanese concept which can be interpreted as “reason for being”. A flow and a method to to have some meaningful direction in your life. You may have seen the above Venn diagram which makes you look at 4 key concepts within your life: What do you love?, What are you good at?, What does the world need? and What can you be paid for? By deep diving into these areas you can better establish your passion, mission, profession and vocation. It is however not the true vision of Ikigai, rather a western interpretation of the model. That popular diagram was designed by one guy in 2014 who merged it with another diagram from some other guy on his interpretation of Ikigai which was also inspired from some other guys model of purpose. Whatever. In any case, it not to say this model is not worth your time. It truly is worth the time and effort to work with these questions. Personally, I think it’s a great structured framework to focus on a professional purpose. It helped me define a better career path and even this blog. I cannot recommend enough to get your pen and paper and brain dump your thoughts on those concepts.

However, there’s something still missing. The components of that model are great for work, but for sure there is more to life’s purpose than work. What about family, faith, love, friendships etc. I don’t believe in having an all in one purpose in life. I believe a persons purpose can differ from time to time. Especially during difficult periods in ones life. If I were to call upon my simple self, I would strip away all the fluff or even mess surrounding each day, and i’m left with an overarching theme. Happiness. This thing we are ultimately looking for is …. happiness. Being happy is my why. I want myself and those close to me, to be happy.

I know. I know it’s easy to say your reason for being is to be happy. However what does happiness really entail? It entails to drive pleasure in ones, body, mind, heart and soul. So how can we do that? Again I believe there are multiple ways to achieve it, but let’s revisit the concept of Ikigai. Author and neuroscientist Ken Mogi details 5 pillars of Ikigai where he believes encompasses the concept of happiness.

5 Pillars of Ikigai. Author Ken Mogi. Graphic: IkigaiTribe.com
  • Starting Small (Drop by Drop)
  • Releasing Yourself (Acceptance)
  • Harmony and Sustainability (Consistency and Trust)
  • The Joy of Little Things (Gratitude)
  • Being in the here and now (Live for the moment)

Ken Mogi points out each pillar is not mutually exclusive, or exhaustive, nor do they have a particular order and they can be used to complement each other. When I look at these pillars, I see a way to take something each day. Drop by drop. Using my spirit, my faith to submit and accept a facet of what I have in life or indeed want in life. Performing an action consistently and trusting those close to me. Being grateful and taking pleasure in that action or detail and living in that specific moment.

Look I know, and in all honestly, living in the moment, this year, has been really tough. Yet, and this is the real beauty of not having or knowing that fixed purpose, is that it’s okay to start again. This is a flow. It’s a liquid, dynamic flow. This flow drives those sensory pleasures to trigger happiness. This flow is within us. To accept the flow, you need to accept yourself. Accepting yourself in itself is a reward. Reward of any kind drives happiness.

Have a go at truly applying those pillars in your life, capture the benefit and make an intention of having each of these pillars each day. Let me know how it goes and share your flow! Before I leave you to accept your flow, I’d like to share a quote that sparked my awareness of the source of my purpose from Imam Ali (AS). Peace&Love.

Your sickness is from you, but you do not perceive it and your remedy is within you, but you do not sense it. You presume you are a small entity, but within you is enfolded the entire Universe. You are indeed the evident book, by whose alphabetโ€™s the hidden becomes manifest. Therefore you have no need to look beyond yourself. What you seek is within you, if only you reflect. 

Imam Ali (AS)
Always remember to Smile to keep your Ikigai

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Having over 15 yearsโ€™ experience in freight forwarding and supply chain management, Ali has led numerous multi-disciplined projects and operations globally. A change management specialist having worked within multiple industry verticals. He is also a coffee-obsessed, solo-travelling introvert.

Ali is also a published author with his latest book; Building Your Bridge: An Introvertโ€™s Art of SuccessA personal journey to help guide professional introverts to realising that as an introvert, the skills and traits for success are already within their grasp. Available now here.


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