18 Apr

Living Your Purpose

Anthony Poponi with a group of students at a Rotary Club's “Invention Convention,” which showcases elementary school finalists showing of their inventions.

I just finished a three-part series of virtual workshops with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s NE Region. It was great to reconnect with my “old” career path and support the awesome work of the Service.

Our final session on purpose is always one of my favorite sessions, because I do the work alongside my clients. “Getting yourself” and understanding your gifts, passions, and values is energizing and always gets me fired back up about living my life with purpose.

I use several fun tools and assessments, one of which is framed loosely on the Japanese term “Ikigai,” defined as:

“a motivating force; something or someone that gives sense of purpose or a reason for living” or more simply “your reason for getting out of bed.”

Japanese people get out of bed for more days than people in most other countries with a very high
longevity and quality of life in their later years. The Ikigai tool we used asks four questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What do you love doing?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can you get paid for?
Visual infographic of Ikigai tool and the four questions.

I always challenge my audiences to take out the final question: “What can you get paid for?”

By removing the final question, you can often find purpose-filled volunteerism, which can be incredibly rewarding. If your answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 all play in your service to others as a volunteer, and
if you’re using your gifts and strengths, then volunteering can be a joy and fulfilling.

Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, one of my local rotary Clubs asked me to emcee their “Invention Convention,” which showcases elementary school finalists showing their inventions. I got to emcee the
inventors, ask what inspired their invention, (most were focused on avoiding doing their chores ????) entertaining parents, and all the while doing something aligned with my “Ikigai” replies (rhyming!) to the four questions:

  1. Speaking and entertaining is my gift and my passion.
  2. Supporting others is what makes me light up – especially youth! And making Rotarians feel great about their service to others is a win-win.
  3. Empowering youth and to make these events fun for the kids, the parents (looking at you, boring recitals!) is a win for the world.
  4. My compensation in USD dollars, Turkish lira or rupees was $0. The fee was paid as services were rendered (instead of net 60!). But I was paid if full with “non-cash compensation” immediately by the making those kids shine, making the parents and attendees laugh and in the form of the kind words that followed the event. The “Invention Convention” was the highlight of my week.

You can live your purpose if you get clarity on what matters to you and what gifts you can offer. Explore your purpose on your own using the ikigai questions and/or this free resource on “Finding Your Gifts.” As you refine your top 5 gifts think about how to put those into work more often each day in your life! You might get paid, you might not and you’ll learn compensation might not matter if you’re living your purpose.


Anthony Poponi interviewing a student at a Rotary Club's “Invention Convention” which showcases elementary school finalists showing of their inventions.


Anthony Poponi is a happiness expert, energetic professional speaker, workplace consultant and founder of Focus on the 40 programs and resources. He specializes in putting joy in our workplaces and in our communities through workshops and keynotes that leave his audiences buzzing. Being a hard act to follow on stage is always his goal.

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