I left a steady career in tech to follow my lifelong dream of being a writer. Writing is my life - I don’t know who I am without it. I identify as a writer first and foremost. Even as a young child I journaled every day about my observations on the world. Journalism paid my way through university. My portfolio secured a coveted journalism scholarship and I’m eternally grateful for how it changed my life.

I ended up following a path that was more society’s making than my own: I went into sales and marketing in the tech industry. At some point I woke up, looked around, and asked myself if I was standing up to be a voice for others, following my passion, and doing something to change the world.

We are born into a world that thrusts us into a plan and sets us on a course with rules. At some point in our lives, we look around and realize what now? So much of our lives are planned out for us. We begin school and have structure – we are even told what to do and how to do it for most of our lives. Finding our purpose and passion is only part of the process. Most of the time, we do what we are expected to. Realizing that we’ve taken all the usual steps and are still not fulfilled can be very scary and cause huge anxiety.

Having the courage to follow your dream and pursue your passion involves fears, risk, hurdles, insights, personal gain and, in the end, incredible fulfilment.

I started thinking about what the Japanese call Ikigai , which translates to ‘a reason for being’.

Ikigai is the belief that the source of value in your life, and what makes life worthwhile, is something you live for and wake up each morning to do. Your ikigai is specific to your life, values and beliefs. It reflects your inner self and expresses who you are while simultaneously creating a mental state where you feel at ease and at peace with your life.

The Four Circles

Start small, by accepting yourself, connecting with the world around you (through other people and the environment), seek out small joys, and be in the here and now.

In order to find your Ikigai, ask yourself the following four questions:

1. What do I love?

2. What am I good at?

3. What can I be paid for now. What is something that could transform into my future hustle?

4. What does the world need?

What I love are stories. What I’m good at is writing. I asked myself what can I be paid for? Can I do this? What the world needs is a voice for those who can’t be heard. Most importantly, I felt at peace with the direction of my life.


Ask yourself - what am I doing that pays the bills? Are there any parts of your job that you particularly enjoy?


Ask yourself - when do you feel you are totally in the “zone” and time stands still? Are there any activities that you become so engrossed in where you don’t reach for your phone?


Ask yourself - what aspect of your life will you never tire of? What activity would you get metaphorically tattooed on your skin? How do you want to be remembered? What do you feel is your duty to the earth or humankind? What do you want to contribute to the world?

Finally, are there any threads that link all four parts of your life? What common themes or activities come up? Could there be something that connects them together? Something that simultaneously gives you joy, satisfaction, life purpose, and reward? This could be your Ikigai.

Overcoming fear

Fear can often stand in the way of taking a leap. Once you figure out what your dreams are, it can be difficult to pursue them. Identifying fears is sometimes more tangible and can, therefore, be a good tool to guide a clearer picture of what your dream could possibly look like.

Ego comes into play with dreams and fears and how we identify ourselves. We often hinder our dreams because we are stuck to identities of ourselves that we like or feel safe in. If we could strip all of those identities, we would be free to pursue our dreams and passions.

Useful Practices

Find a mentor

Mentors are most often experienced people you get to know and look to for advice, informally and organically. They’re people you go to coffee with, people you ask for guidance, and people you call when there’s a big decision to make.

Support others

Raise each other up. You are on your own journey, but you are not alone. Each of us is fighting to be heard in a chorus of overlapping and intersecting voices. Support each other’s work, words, and projects. We all win when we help each other succeed.

Be brave

Fight for what you believe in. Take action. Take risks. Be brave enough to live the life you love.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain.

Share your knowledge

“In some corner of your life, you know more about something than anyone else on earth. The true measure of your education is not what you know, but how you share it with others” - Kent Nerburn.

Celebrate every milestone

Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal. Celebrate every win!

Stop comparing yourself to others

Instead, compare yourself to the person you were yesterday and compete with yourself.

Becoming a freelance writer was daunting but totally worth it! I’ve been able to be a voice for so many people and to report on topics that are extremely important in the world! The journey to Ikigai is the ultimate in self-realization – it involves experience, analysis, and a life lived. And always remember, the journey itself is also part of your Ikigai.

By: Melissa Embury

#melissaembury #ikigai #passion #pastself #questions

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