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Discover Your Purpose: Insights from Cultures and Philosophers on Crafting Meaning

Uncategorized Sep 20, 2023

Running out the door at 5 p.m. sharp. Appeasing your boss to collect a paycheck. Counting the days to the weekend, only to spend your Sunday lamenting Monday.

Do you ever think to yourself, “There’s got to be more to life than this?”

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. According to a global Gallup poll, only 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers report feeling engaged in their jobs, leaving a significant 85% of professionals dissatisfied with their work.

The primary reason for this disengagement is often a lack of connection to the purpose and significance of one's work. Questions about the true impact and value of one's contributions, and how to feel connected to work through purpose, have been pondered by people throughout history and across various cultures and countries.

In this blog post, we will delve into diverse cultural and philosophical perspectives on discovering deeper meaning in not only your work, but also your life as a whole. Our goal is to either motivate you to explore the intrinsic value of your current occupation or to kindle your enthusiasm for pursuing a career or role that truly resonates with your innate sense of purpose.

Ikigai, Your Reason for Being

The term "ikigai" is commonly translated as "a reason for being" or "a reason to wake up in the morning." It is rooted in Japanese culture and philosophy, particularly within the Okinawan culture. Interesting to note… the Okinawan population is renowned for its high proportion of centenarians, people who live to 100+. They often credit their lifespan to their profound sense of purpose and life satisfaction.

Ikigai is a concept that aims to identify a person’s core purpose by determining where the four vital elements (Passion, Mission, Vocation, Profession) in a person’s life intersect. It advises people not to succumb to compartmentalized thinking, where our work, family, interests, and desires appear as isolated and unrelated fragments of our existence. At its core, Ikigai underscores the interconnectedness of everything. Through this convergence, you’re intended to find your purpose with ease & contentment. Your purpose is already natural to you.

This concept encapsulates the ethos of The Culture Fix®, where our mission is for employees to feel fulfilled, loyal and engaged so that they don't work to live but rather have one fulfilling life.

Begin to discover your Ikigai by asking these four questions:


What do you love?

This answer covers first point of Ikigai. Perhaps, before answering this question, you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re willing to believe that it's possible to align your passions with your career. Many people refrain from even envisioning a career they love because they've been conditioned to believe that work is “work.” However, take into account that you'll invest approximately 10.2 to 13 years of your life in your occupation... What if you spent those years doing the things that make you lose track of time, rather than count down the minutes?

Allow yourself to dream, and be honest about what you love to do. In this exercise, anything is possible. Start there, and you might begin to believe anything is possible in life too (it is!).

What are you good at?

Recognize your areas of expertise, the things you excel at, and the skills you have developed over time. What can you bring from the experience you already have into the next phase of your career? How can you leverage what you already know for the goodness you can do for the world?

What does the world need?

Take a moment for introspection and pose this question to yourself: If I had the power to make a significant impact in any aspect of society or humanity, that ultimately benefits everyone, which area would that be? While not everyone is inherently born with a clear sense of their life's calling, it's highly likely that you hold convictions about the changes you wish to see in the world. Perhaps it involves introducing a valuable product, service, or conveying a crucial message. What do you believe people would gain from your contributions?

What can you be paid for?

Ultimately, a job needs to provide a living. It's about identifying how you can use your passions, mission, and vocation to sustain yourself. Even if there isn’t a set path or position for your ikigai, there are endless resources onlines to find where you can source income for your work. You may have to blaze your own trail, but if it’s what the world needs, someone has to find a way. Why not you?

Dharma, Your Soul’s Purpose

According to Well+Good Article, where author Jessica Estrada interviewed Sahara Rose, Ayurveda expert, and author of Discover Your Dharma, “The word dharma is an ancient Sanskrit word that refers to your soul’s purpose—the big reason why you are here. And it’s not just what you do, but how you do it, and why you do it.”

Dharma is a concept intended to encompass moral and ethical responsibilities and contributes to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. According to Sahara, discovering your dharma has less to do with seeking external direction, and more with acknowledging your innate way of being.

While this concept can feel elusive, Sahara recommends these 4 steps to concretizing your dharma: “discover your dharma archetype (teacher, artist, entrepreneur, entertainer, or visionary), notice the mediums that come naturally to you, realize the obstacles you’ve overcome, pay attention to what excites you, and find your superpower.”

This concept suggests that you already have the answers, and they reveal themselves as you take a closer look at your life experiences. It emphasizes that your purpose may not be defined solely by your profession or actions. Instead, finding your dharma involves a deeper exploration of how you engage with your current occupation. You can align with your dharma not only by switching careers, but also by approaching your work in a manner that resonates more authentically with your true self.

Eudaimonia, The Path to True Well-Being

Long before your favorite self-help book was published, Plato, Socrates, & Aristotle were working on actualizing the term Eudaimonia. Rooted in ancient Greek philosophy, Eudaimonia is often translated as "happiness," but its essence extends far beyond fleeting emotions. It is a state of flourishing, a life lived in harmony with one's moral virtues and true potential. The philosopher's findings are the basis of modern “happiness” psychology today, for example, it gave way to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”

Aristotle saw Eudaimonia as the ultimate goal of human life, a noble pursuit that transcends momentary pleasures. Within this concept exists several pillars: Virtue, Reason, Fulfillment of Potential, Connection, and Balance & Moderation.

Similarly to how discovering your Dharma is less about what you do and more about how & why you do it, eudaimonic wellbeing is “...not so much an outcome or end state as it is a process of fulfilling or realizing one’s daimon or true nature—that is, of fulfilling one’s virtuous potentials and living as one was inherently intended to live,” according Deci & Ryan from an article by Positive Psychology.

Are you thinking, “Okay… so what does that mean for me?”

Allow us to boil down this ancient philosophy into a practical direction toward Eudaimonia.

  • Know Who You Really Are: Take time to reflect on your core beliefs, personal character strengths, and values. Meditation and introspection are essential.
  • Develop Your Unique Potentials: Armed with self-knowledge, commit to nurturing your virtues and talents persistently. Embrace personal growth as an ongoing endeavor.
  • Use Your Potentials to Fulfill Life Goals: Eudaimonia comes to those who tirelessly pursue their potential over the long term. This dedication to self-realization is a hallmark of the Eudaimonic journey.

Even though this concept isn’t directly related to your career, it makes it clear that goal-setting, work as a medium for connection & virtue, & self-growth are pivotal to a person’s wellbeing.

Additionally, there is a Eudaimonic Well Being Scale and Questionnaire. You can find the entire scale in this article, but here are some items from the QEWB to get a better sense of how Eudaimonic Well Being is measured.

  1. Other people usually know better what would be good for me to do than I know myself. (Reverse scored)
  2. If I did not find what I was doing rewarding for me, I do not think I could continue doing it.
  3. When I engage in activities that involve my best potential, I have this sense of really being alive.
  4. I find a lot of the things I do are personally expressive for me.
  5. My life is centered around a set of core beliefs that give meaning to my life.
  6. It is important to me that I feel fulfilled by the activities that I engage in.
  7. I find it hard to get really invested in the things that I do. (Reverse scored)

Answering these questions can help you begin to see where you are making sacrifices in your life that are counterintuitively hindering your success. Overall, this ancient concept, which has held tried & true in the modern field of psychology, implies that meaningful work not only drives success but also your wellbeing, and vice versa. In short, what’s good for you will be good for your career, because you will enthusiastically seek growth opportunities in an effort to actualize your true potential.

Ubuntu, A Philosophy of Interconnectedness

Enter Ubuntu, is a Southern African concept that has transcended borders and gained global recognition for its profound insights into humanity, interconnectedness, and the essence of being human. It also may be the key to a more meaningful career philosophy.

Ubuntu, originating from the Nguni Bantu languages and cultures of Southern Africa, particularly among the Zulu and Xhosa people, is a philosophy deeply rooted in the idea of interconnectedness. At its core, Ubuntu emphasizes the notion that our well-being is intricately linked to the well-being of others. This is encapsulated in the phrase "I am because we are." In other words, our individual identities and humanity are not isolated but are profoundly shaped and enhanced by our relationships and interactions with others.

Understanding this philosophy can provide a powerful sense of purpose and a deeper connection to your work. What this philosophy implies, is that regardless of what you do for a living, you are one piece that makes the puzzle whole. Whether you’re the farmer who is growing the food we eat, or the manager of the grocery store we frequent, your work enables your community to function, to sustain life, and in that philosophy, there is innate integrity to your work.

One of the fundamental aspects of Ubuntu is the encouragement to view oneself as an integral part of a larger collective or community. This collective identity shapes our responsibilities and moral obligations towards the group, fostering a sense of belonging and a shared destiny. In the context of your career, embracing this collective identity can provide a powerful sense of purpose and a deeper connection to your work.

Take a moment to consider, who benefits from my work? Then consider the beneficiary each day, especially when challenges arise, to remember that there is significance behind your work.


In a world where many find themselves caught in the monotony of daily routines, yearning for a deeper sense of purpose, it's reassuring to know that the quest for meaning has been a timeless pursuit shared by cultures and philosophers across the ages. The path to discovering one's purpose in both work and life is a journey marked by rich insights and profound philosophies.

So, if you ever find yourself yearning for more than the daily grind, remember that the search for meaning is a quest as old as humanity itself, one that transcends cultural boundaries and time. Embrace the wisdom of Ikigai, Dharma, Eudaimonia, and Ubuntu, and you may discover a deeper sense of purpose that enriches not only your work but your entire life's journey.


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