FarSighted: 4 Steps to Finding Your Purpose, by Fairview International School

Every parent wants their child to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Yet more and more it seems like our youth are funneled into a narrow selection of jobs to lead pre-set pathways in life. Jobs and careers that solve someone else’s problems, that fulfill the dreams of others. 

What do you want for your kids? What is the future you envision for your child? Often the answer is non-specific and goes along the lines of, I want them to be happy, or I want them to be successful, or I want them to be healthy. But what does it mean to be happy? Or successful or healthy? 

The 1 thing that holds true for everyone is that we can all benefit from discovering our sense of  purpose, to be able to live a life that is meaningful, fulfilling and financially stable.

Most of us, even as adults, are still struggling to find the ‘purpose’ in our lives. What more our children? And the children of today are more curious than previous generations. So wouldn’t it be great if we can help our children intentionally and systematically draw out their purpose rather than have them flounder around? How much time and heartache would we save them? What can we parents, teachers or mentors do to help them know why they are doing what they are doing, to know exactly where they are heading and to stay motivated in their journey in order to be more happy, successful and healthy? 

So as promised,let me introduce you the 4 steps derived from the Japanese secret to a long and happy life: IKIGAI 生き甲斐.

The word Ikigai in Japanese is derived from these characters  生き meaning ‘life’ and   甲斐meaning ‘to be worthwhile’. The character 甲 means “to be first” –  to head into battle, taking initiative as a leader” and the character 斐 means “beautiful” or “elegant”. 

The word ikigai is derived from the characters:

  • Life and worthwhile.
  • The character : to be first- means to head into battle, where you take the initiative as a leader
  • And the last character, this means beautiful or elegant

The Japanese believe that everyone has an Ikigai – a reason for being. So how do you begin to help your child find their Ikigai? By intentionally exploring each stage, one by one. Let us go back to school and visit the Venn diagram:

Our Ikigai is found in the sweet spot between What you love, What you are good at, What you can be paid for and What the world needs. It makes sense doesn’t it? As you can see, the four overlapping areas of Ikigai will help you discover or uncover your mission, passion, vocation and profession. Therefore your reason for being, is where your passions, talents, things the world needs and is willingness to pay for collide.

So, to find your Ikigai, you discover your answers in each sphere.

You love it 

Help your children identify the things they love. These are things you do or experience that brings you joy, makes you feel alive and fulfilled. Something which allows you to be in the ‘flow’ state – where you are blissfully content and focused on the task you enjoy doing. They may be able to tell you this, but you can also help by observing them in their daily lives and seeing them in their ‘flow’. They are typically things that make them lose track of time. 

They must be encouraged to think about the things they love without fear, without any concern about whether they are good at it, the world needs it or if they can be paid for the ability. Doing the things you love helps you stay present and takes away the stressors in life. So parents, don’t stop your child from doing what they love!

You Are Great at It

This can be anything your child is particularly good at, or has natural knack for, whether they are skills learnt, hobbies pursued or talents they have shown from a young age. Help your child identify their strengths, skills and talents. It is also important to note that talents may not be something you are born with, but honed through diligence, dedication and discipline.

The World Needs It

This is merely something greater than yourself. It could mean the world as a whole or simply the small circle of people surrounding yourself or anywhere in between. It is about connecting with the needs of others and doing good for them. These needs may be based on your own impressions or expressed by others. Fulfilling this part of Ikigai helps us feel needed which gives us a greater purpose in life. As adults we receive remuneration for services when we solve problems. The greater the problem, the larger the remuneration. As the formula goes in the world of business, bigger the risk, bigger the reward. And the biggest problems we face are easily seen in the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals as they affect the entire world!

You Are Paid for It

There’s a saying “money can’t buy happiness” but it does help you fulfil your basic needs: a roof over your head, food, clothes and of course, entertainment. Financial stability gives you peace of mind. So help your child understand the world and identify the things the world would be willing to pay for. Of course, tomorrow’s world is drastically different to what we grew up in, and technological advancement will bring forth a variety of jobs that we could never imagine. So sit, discuss and explore with your child all the possibilities, and don’t reject or look down on their ideas, most importantly, tell them it is impossible. Because it may be the very thing the world needs and is willing to pay for in 10 years or less!

Ikigai reminds us that everything is connected, that it is about finding the delicate balance of peace, joy and fulfilment in our daily lives. It is useful to remember that in helping them plan for their future it’s necessarily about a traditional job of our time, or about how much they will be able to earn but the fulfilment they get from learning and doing something they love or the ability to give back or make the world a better place. Finding their Ikigai can help them map out their future and improve their study performance as well as mental well being.

The theory of the search of Ikigai sounds simple. You simply have to fill in the 4 spheres that make up Ikigai and find the areas of overlap. But filling in those spheres could prove to be difficult for some and taking the first steps towards their Ikigai is even more difficult. Some of the reasons for this is: 

  • The fear of taking risks 
  • The fear of asking for help, 
  • Not knowing what your passions are or 
  • Being told your passion does not equate to a job, 
  • Not knowing what career prospects there are or,
  • Having life decisions made for you. 

So as parents, we need to be there to support our children, talk and even more importantly, listen openly, not judging and respecting their thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams. Only then, can they gain the courage to take the first steps towards their Ikigai. And don’t forget that their Ikigai can and should change with time and as interests and values  change, so revisit it often. As a parent are you doing something to hinder your child in finding their Ikigai? This is an exercise of self- reflection and improvement for you.

To wrap it up, I’d like to share some of the ways Fairview explicitly and systematically help our students find their Ikigai. 

First and foremost, the IB programmes foster International mindedness, encouraging our students to inquire into the wider world. The twice yearly expeditions broadens their perspectives and experience of the world. The service and action component also encourage community work. All of this ties together synergistically to help them discover “what the world needs” and how they can fulfil this need. 

The Falcons programme and Approaches to Learning (ATL) helps students learn and develop new skills, broadening as well as honing “what they are good at”. The “Everyone is a Musician” programme also allows for diversity for more talent and skill to shine through.

The coaching programme, the EYAS coaching programme helps them discover the “things they love and are good at” whilst teaching and developing a goal and action-oriented mindset. It paves a path of self discovery, self-management  and ownership. The discussion which takes place with their coach and peers gives them the courage, motivation and accountability to take steps towards their goals.

But most impressive of all is our career coaching programme designed to help primary 4 students up to our IB Diploma students put everything together with the IKIGAI model!

By Dr Janice Chan, EYAS Well-being Advisor


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