Ikigai: A Framework to Finding Your Purpose


There’s something that’s relatable to most students that enter the working world. It’s a little voice that looms and nags at us, its voice getting louder the closer we are to graduation. Yes, it’s the inevitable dread of facing the existential crisis that is: ‘What is my purpose?’

Some find it early, but others spend years in the workforce before realising that the job that they’ve undertaken is something they cannot live with for the rest of their life. After quitting, that’s when that existential question comes to rise again.

According to the Collins Dictionary, a quarterlife crisis is defined as ‘a crisis that may be experienced in one’s twenties, involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life’. Emphasis on direction. It’s not uncommon to see young adults and students casually poking fun at their plights online as a way to mask their internal uncertainty of what they are going to be doing once they are thrust into the adult world. Most take years to find that direction, and some only do when they are already weighed down by higher responsibilities like paying bills and taking care of their families. It’s a ‘crisis’ that’s better to be solved while one is still able to take risks, but as a young adult myself, I feel a little guidance goes a long way in helping to navigate the direction we want to build for ourselves.


Introducing Ikigai, a Japanese concept directly translating to ‘a reason for being’, referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose. A popular westernised rendition of this concept splits ikigai into four pillars:

  • Doing What You LOVE
  • Doing What You Are GOOD AT
  • Doing What the World NEEDS
  • Doing What You Can Be PAID FOR

Any scope of work that can fulfill these four pillars would likely constitute to a rather balanced lifestyle and general fulfilment of one’s life. Not fulfilling any one or two of these pillars would lead to a feeling of lack. As an example, being in a job that you are good at, can be paid for, and one that the world ‘needs’ could lead to a comfortable life, but a feeling of emptiness stemming from it being not something that you love doing. On the other hand, doing what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs could lead to delight and fulfilment, yet a lack of wealth.

Applying this framework in finding out what your ‘purpose’ is surely adds a lot more structure to that existential question. Whilst not necessary, I believe this simple concept would allow people to lead much richer lives and waste a lot less time in finding out what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

Workers of Singapore

A community site which welcomes contributions relevant to workers of Singapore.

You’re on our website! We’re on Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram | TikTok | Telegram – give us a follow!

Helping the young workforce navigate adulthood

About Author

A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That's why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.