Why am I here?
That is a question most of us ask ourselves at least once in our lives. Actually, I hope it is a lot more than once, because when you ask a question often enough you usually get an answer, and the answer to this question is probably the most important answer you will ever get.
The Japanese call the answer to this question "Ikigai" - the reason for being. In Okinawa people say that "ikigai" is the reason for getting up in the morning, which I feel is a very good way to think of it.
The answer to the question will change over time. It is meant to. Your purpose in life will vary according to many different factors, a lot of which are changing all the time. The very core of the answer may be the same throughout your life, but the detailed way in which it is expressed will change.
For example, your answer may be "to make the world a better place". A great answer! But if you want to create a plan of what to do, it is probably not very helpful. It is great as a spirit level to check the correctness of something you plan to do, but not actually to generate the idea in the first place. You therefore need to dig deeper.
One good way of digging deeper, and finding your own true reason for living, is to create a series of 4 lists. These should be headed as follows:
1 What do I love?
2 What am I good at?
3 What does the world need?
4 What can I be paid for?
Produce the lists in that order.
When you are producing each list, be as open as you possibly can be. Write down all the ideas that come to you even if they seem silly. Make sure the list is as long as you can make it.
The first half dozen ideas should be very easy and should come very quickly. The next dozen or so probably won't come so quickly but should still not be too difficult. But don't stop there. Keep going. You may find after you have produced a list of 20 you struggle to find any more. Or perhaps that will happen when you get to 30. Or maybe it happened even earlier at 10 or 15. This will be different for each list and different for each person. If you are an athlete you will know what I mean when I say you have reached "the wall". You have got to that place where it seems impossible to go any further. And it is by crossing that wall that an athlete really gets into the zone and goes on to win. So cross the wall - spend time digging deep, as you may well find that the ideas that come up the other side of the wall are the most fruitful.
Produce all 4 lists in this way, but it is actually the first 2 that are key. Three and four are vital, but you may find once you have produced one and two you can fill in three and four from ideas in one and two.
Take the first two lists, "What do I Love?" and "What am I Good at", and try to find items that are on both lists. If you spent enough time and crossed the wall for both lists you will find a large number that are on both. While you are doing this you are also allowed to cheat. By this, I mean if you see an item on one list and cannot find it on the other, but feel instinctively it belongs there, then add it!
You are now going to create more lists. Sorry about all these lists, but it is really important! The first of these new lists is headed "Passion". On your "Passion" list, write down everything that you have just identified are in lists one and two.
Now take lists 1 "What do I Love?" and 3 "What does the World Need?" and find any shared items on both these lists. Copy these into a new list headed "Mission".
So, you now have a number of things that you love and that you are good at, which are all your passions, and a number of things you love and you believe the world needs, which are your missions.
Take list 2 now, "What am I good at?", and compare it with list 4 "What can I be paid for?". Copy these into a new list, headed "Profession".
Then take list 3, "What does the world need?", and compare it with list 4 "What can I be paid for?". Copy these into a new list, headed "Vocation".
Now you have 4 new lists:
Look at all four of the new lists. What items are on all 4? Write each of these on a list headed "Reason for Being".
Some of the items that have ended up on "Reason for Being" may well surprise you. You may never have thought of putting effort into them, but this "Reason for Being" exercise has highlighted them as very important.
What you do with this list is up to you. Maybe it will prompt you to start a new career or a new business. Maybe you will start a new hobby that ends up giving you some "pocket money". Perhaps you will not make any radical changes but just slightly modify what you do and how you do it. You may meditate, focussing on your "Reason for Being" list and see what arises from your meditation session.
I cannot promise you will suddenly make loads more money, or feel much more needed, or completely change your career. But I can promise you that in one way or another you will change, subtly perhaps or maybe quite obviously, and that you will be better as a result. And once you have performed this exercise, don't think the job is now done and never need be done again. As I said at the outset, things change over time, and this "Reason for Being" process can be very valuably repeated many times over your life.