Find Your Sense of Purpose

Have you found your sense of purpose? Often, when we think of purpose, we imagine something grand; something that will make a huge impact on our society. But sometimes, we can find purpose even in the smallest things that happen around us. Nick and Dr. Katharina Stenger discuss that with ikigai, people can appreciate the beauty in small things and find purpose in them.

Nick: It's really interesting when we start to think about that, even our hardships can end up giving us some sense of meaning or purpose. And Mieko Kamiya talks about.. Yeah, the importance of having a sense of purpose.

This idea of a sense of feeling seems to be really important in the context of having a sense of purpose, having a sense of ikigai, so ikigai-kan, and even having a sense of freedom despite living with constraints. It's really fascinating work and Mieko Kamiya in her work.

It's unbelievable that she's not recognized because, in a way, she probably should be as recognized as someone like Viktor Frankl or other authors who write about… You know, the subject of positive psychology or life meaning. And I know for you and me, that's something we hope to do is bring her some recognition.

Rina: Yeah, that is part of our mission as well.

Nick: And you've touched on that mission is really important, too. So this idea of having a personal mission, where it can be something quite humble, doesn't have to be this big life goal.

It can be something you find in a role as maybe your role as a counselor or psychologist and in a way, I'm just someone sharing knowledge for the Ikigai Tribe. So, I don't even really think I'm.. I'm sort of a slash coach and just some Australian guy sharing knowledge on ikigai.

Rina: Oh, you are! You are a coach. I mean, you coached me, and a lot of other people, you inspired so many people already. So it's not just knowledge, Nick, believe me, there's so much more. But yeah, actually what you said, this brings me to a difference between ikigai and humanistic psychology.

For example, in ikigai, this sense of purpose can be very small, and you can find it on a day-to-day basis, you can find it in the small things. But I have the feeling that in westernized psychology, having a sense of purpose is seen as a bigger thing, like, "what's your lebenssinn"  as we say in German, what's your sense in life, your purpose in life.

And we have this pressure, that is, "Oh, this has to be something big." And I think this is where ikigai comes in more handy. Think smaller, appreciate the small things, you will find sense in small things too. And I think that's beautiful.

Nick: So do I. I actually remember, as you said that, I remember this example of a chef's wife, who had a restaurant where my old English school was in Japan. So in this small town, Tajimi.

Actually, it wasn't his wife, it was his girlfriend, but she made sweets, just delicious sweets, and she would package them up and leave them on a table outside the door of the restaurant, and people would be on an honest system. 

So you just put in a few hundred yen and take a packet. And for her, that gave her the sense of purpose, that people would enjoy her handmade sweets. And she found that really satisfying. And I think it'd be so easy to dismiss that and say, "Oh, that's not the real purpose. It has to be something more impactful, bigger."

But I have certainly learned from ikigai that… Yeah, we don't always have to be this ambitious person trying to change the world. All of us can find a sense of purpose, starting with small things.

Rina: Exactly, exactly. I mean, you are maybe changing the world, even if you make the small packaging because you will make the day of another person. You will make this person a little bit happier. I think I would be very happy to find some candies. It was handmade by some Japanese lady with love.

Sometimes you don't even know how you change the world of other people or how you make a difference even… It is the small things that really matter if you look at them the right way. So thank you for this story.

Nick: Yeah. It just sort of came to me and it is this accumulation of small things isn't it? In our daily lives. And we're so fixated on achieving something in the future, we often miss these little things. And one thing I've learned as I'm getting a little bit older is that with life experience, you seem to understand this.

After some life experience, you seem to understand, "Oh, well. I've achieved all these big goals. And whatever I was expecting didn't happen." I didn't get this euphoria. I didn't get this everlasting happiness. I got some satisfaction, but I still needed to sort of keep moving forward. But we can move forward with these little things.

It doesn't have to be something that's... Some almost impossible goal to achieve that drives us. It can be, as Ken Mogi talks about, almost like a spectrum of small things, to life-defining goals. And the more I research ikigai, the more I understand how fascinating, how helpful it is.

IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living

Ikigai is a greatly misunderstood concept outside of Japan. It’s not a word from Okinawa. It’s not the Japanese secret to longevity. It’s not an entrepreneurial Venn diagram framework.

This evidence-based book clears up the misconceptions of Japan's most misunderstood word and culturally appropriated concept and offers an authentic perspective of the concept in the context of Japanese culture.