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Align Purpose with Career

If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you pursue wholeheartedly?

This article offers a coaching tool for self-reflection that can help you explore various career options. So, get ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery and gain insights into your personal and professional goals.

Have you ever wondered what purpose means to you?

How do psychologists define purpose?

It's about setting an intention to achieve a goal that holds personal significance and has the potential to influence the world or those around you positively.

It's a deeply personal concept, one that resonates with your core values and aspirations. 

To reflect on your purpose and career—and reach your why—the what, who and how should be explored. There are many ways to do this, so I've shared a couple of popular models below, i.e. the Ikigai and Venn Diagram of Purpose.

Aligning my career and purpose

In 2022, I took the leap and founded Kinkajou Limited, a consultancy with a mission to drive positive change for organisations and individuals. Friends commented on my bravery and energy in setting up a company. But for me, it's not about courage; it's about doing work that aligns with my values.

These questions are always rumbling in my mind.

The answers change over time, but some core elements remain.

  1. What activities leave me feeling energized and fulfilled?

  2. What causes am I deeply passionate about?

  3. What values do I hold most important in life?

  4. What principles guide my decisions and actions?

  5. What aspects of my life align with my values and passions?

Dealing with layoffs and career uncertainties

It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Nelson Mandela

According to, since January 2022, nearly 500,000 people working in the tech industry have been laid off from 1483 tech companies worldwide. As a result, many employees are now forced to search for their next job, adding to their stress and worry about potential future layoffs.

Living in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty about your job can be daunting and demoralising. As someone who has navigated layoff processes, I understand some of the challenges.

What helped me and others was leaning into my sense of purpose to guide me in deciding what to do next.

Ikigai for career transformation

The word, philosophy, and concept of Ikigai (ee-key-guy) originate from Japan and embody the idea of happiness in living. It's a nuanced concept that suggests the ability to look ahead to the future, even in times of sadness. While there is no perfect English translation, 'iki' means life, and 'gai' means worth. In 2002, Akihiro Hasegawa researched combining Ikigai and found that it represents a "feeling of being alive now and/or individual motivation for living". Hasegawa's research also found that combining small joys in everyday life leads to a more fulfilling life.

Be aware of Ikigai's viral meme

If you are familiar with Ikigai, you may have seen some associated Venn diagrams.

The origin of this trend can be traced back to Borja Vilaseca's book Qué Harías Si No Tuvieras Miedo (What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?), where he created a Venn diagram to explore the idea of purpose. In the middle of his diagram, Vilaseca put an asterisk.

Later on, coach and entrepreneur Marc Winn heard the word Ikigai in Dan Buettner's How To Live To Be 100+ TED Talk and placed it in the centre of Vilaseca's Purpose diagram. Marc Winn's 2014 viral meme was born.

The sum of my effort was that I changed one word on a diagram and shared a ‘new’ meme with the world. Marc Winn

Vilaseca’s Venn Diagram for Purpose and Career

Vilaseca’s Venn Diagram of Purpose is helpful when thinking about career options.

There are four concentric circles: What I love, my strengths, what the world needs, and what I can get paid for. The theory is that your purpose is found at the confluence of these circles.

Vilaseca’s Venn Diagram of Purpose is helpful for thinking about career options. Black background with a Venn diagram with four circles

 Ready to try it out?

  • Grab a pen and paper (virtual or real).

  • Spend 5-10 minutes on each exercise.

  • Write down your thoughts on the most valuable questions.

  • Do this a few times and adapt the questions for your context.

  • Remember purpose is unique to you. It can change over time.

✔ Exercise 1: Explore what you love

  1. What gives you flow - getting absorbed in what you are doing without noticing hours passing by?

  2. What did you enjoy doing as a kid?

  3. What's on your bookshelves?

  4. What are you passionate about?

  5. Who do you like working with?

  6. What contexts do you love working in?

✔ Exercise 2: Explore your strengths

  1. What skills have you developed throughout your life?

  2. What activities come easily to you and bring you joy?

  3. What drains you?

  4. What unique talents or abilities do you possess?

  5. What do people ask for your perspectives on?

✔ Exercise 3: What the world needs

  1. What do you talk about with others with the most passion?

  2. What do you believe in?

  3. What is the top two challenges in the world do you most care about?

  4. How can you leverage your strengths and skills to contribute to the world?

  5. How can you connect with a community that is passionate about the same topics?

✔ Exercise 4: What can you get paid for? 

  1. What jobs spark your interest?

  2. What expertise can you share with others?

  3. What opportunities for growth and exploration excite you?

  4. What would you be doing if you were not in your current position?

  5. Are your skills transferable to a company or industry that better aligns with your values and passion?

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The purpose is to engage in honest and deep self-reflection to gain clarity and direction on your unique path.

What steps can you take today to begin your journey toward purpose?



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