When Mission Is Not Enough: An IKIGAI Perspective

Photo by Valentina Conde on Unsplash

Exploring the tender consideration of mission not being enough can be a really intimate inquiry. Sometimes facing this inquiry is met with expectations of what should be enough as well as the parts of our identity that are attached to the mission. Mission is really more fluid and not meant to be stuck or immovable. Applying IKIGAI as a practice to this intimate mission inquiry can create spaciousness to explore “not enoughness” with radical tenderness.

In over 20 years of practicing the art, science, and soulfulness of facilitation, one of the most fulfilling types of facilitation has been purpose enrollment. Purpose enrollment allows people to create authentic connections and relationship threads between individual and group contributions to a purpose that connects stakeholder communities and even ecosystems. Even at this level of awareness and practice, Purpose Peeps may find themselves quietly asking, “What if the mission is not enough,” often from a place of mental, physical, and/or spiritual burnout. Many have provided perspectives to explore quiet-quitting as a response. In this Wondering and Wandering exploration, I find myself curious about the liminal space before the response and wonder out loud what is happening within our inner landscapes.

IKIGAI offers a practice to unlock this question (quest I own). An IKIGAI practice integrates the inner and outer perspectives of a life of realized hope into view. It asks its practitioners to stay with the inquiry of and dance between our heart-centered why, our core brilliance, and what the world beyond us is really asking of them, and being sustained through the practice.

IKIGAI graphic with four evenly porportioned connected circles representing your heart centered why, your brilliance, what the world is asking of you and your purpose currency with the word IKIGAI in the center of the circles.
Modified IKIGAI Graphic By Anaïs Bock (SBP, 2018)

IKIGAI as a practice unlocks mission as the combination of your heart-centered why (individual, group, planet, organization, society) and what the world is asking of you (individual, group, organization, planet society). IKIGAI as a practice was gifted to the world by the Okinawan people who were the population of the longest-living people on the planet with high vitality and quality of life. The practice of IKI (life) and GAI (realized hope and expectations) was centered on the values and lifestyle of these purpose peeps.

From an IKIGAI practice perspective, there are several possibilities that offer a lens into the inquiry of mission not being enough. One possibility is that the heart-centered why and/or how it relates to its connection to what is needed has shifted. Another possibility is that the IKIGAI practice is out of balance in the areas of a purpose peep’s core stability — core brilliance and sustainability.

Heart-Centered Why

The heart-centered why is such a juicy and embodied consideration. Purpose peeps, who deeply understand energy, tell us that the heart of the matter is the true yes or no energetic center. If the answer to a quest from the heart is not a strong yes, then its realization will not happen. With so much happening that touches the heart, checking into what your heart is really connected to healing through love is an ongoing journey.

Key To Unlock Your Heart-Centered Why: Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. When we take inspired action and point our activated heart in a direction, we deepen our understanding of the heart of the matter.

Your heart-centered why evolves. There may be many people, places, and situations that you pour your love into. Your heart-centered why may deepen and expand. With so many new considerations entering into our frame of reference that provide new context and understanding, your heart may be guided in new areas calling for your love, attention, and reimagining.

What The World Is Asking of You

Perhaps we were all initiated in learning to pivot with what the world is asking of us during the pandemic. We all shifted our focus from what we wanted to express in the world to what was really needed. This learning showed up intimately in our households and communities and at scale in the world.

From the perspective of IKIGAI, this question of what the world is asking of you is an external quest beyond ourselves. This quest is like a magnet to the hope you carry that is the combination of your heart-centered why and your core brilliance. Connecting with what is being asked of you is a way your seeds of hope become realized.

Heart Centered Response

If something is shifted in your understanding of the heart of the matter and/or what is truly needed at the moment, mission is asking to shift or pivot. This can be really difficult if you personally recognize this shift and you are connected to an organization (an ecosystem of purpose peeps with a shared goal) that does not recognize the shift. It can also be difficult if the organization recognizes the shift and you are resisting the shift. Sometimes the resistance can be attached to your identity, who you perceive yourself to be, and your sense of belonging with the status quo.

Key To Unlock Mission: Give space to mission to evolve in you and beyond you. You will grow to understand the hope you carry and its different expressions over time. Trust your IKIGAI practice to build a case for change for you and others to respond to.

Attention To Your Core Brilliance and Stability

Looking at the IKIGAI graphic, mission appears on the right side of the diagram that does not include currency (your sustainability package) and core brilliance. These aspects of IKIGAI practice reflect your inner spark and its reflection back to you as sustainable currency. The inner perspective partner of mission is passion, the source of the hope you carry. A juicy question to check in with is whether passion ignited. One way to think of the hope you carry in a culture that focuses on immediacy is that hope is the sum of your invisible handprints that you leave moment-by-moment.

Your core brilliance is your inner spark. Sparks need attention and kindling. Sometimes mission-oriented peeps pour so much into the mission beyond themselves that the core brilliance loses attention or focus. A juicy question to explore is what charges your spark? Who are your spark moment peeps that fan the flames of your spark?

Your core brilliance is the quality you bring to all you are and everything you do. It requires nurturing and expression. Your core brilliance is a part of your inner landscape. When you spend time nurturing it, it becomes a part of your stability package giving you benefits that sustain you. Interestingly, it may take practicing the purpose rep of deconditioning to nurture your spark. This is most true if you have been conditioned to downplay your inner spark because it does not align with the expectations of others. I believe the realized expectations of the GAI of IKIGAI are the potentiality of the unique imaginal cells that we all carry.

According to The Myth of Normal (2023), co-authored by Dr. Gabor and Daniel Mate, one of the biggest sufferings one can experience is a lack of belonging to oneself. Checking into your IKIGAI practice to ensure your IKI, your life, is connected to your spark of brilliance, is one way to return to your agency, your truth, and part of your core stability.

When you stoke the flame of your inner spark, you produce a hormone called oxytocin or the love hormone, which is a part of your currency benefits package. Oxytocin is produced by your sense of belonging not just to a mission beyond yourself, but also to a sense of belonging to the truth of who you are.

Your IKIGAI sustainability or purpose currency begins by knowing that there is a return on your IKIGAI practice. That return can be monetary and it is also the sum of well-being and health benefits that avail themselves through living a life of realized hope and authentic expectations. These benefits include longer life, enhanced quality of relationships with other purpose peeps, decreased stress (production of cortisol), decreased inflammation, and increased resilience and grit, among others (HBR, 2023) (Science of Purpose, 2023).

What your IKIGAI practice does not do is to solve for toxic people and environments. Chronic toxicity leads to chronic traumatic stress syndrome which includes many negative health impacts including an overabundance of cortisol, the stress hormone. No matter how strong the mission enrollment is, if there is a large, unexplored gap between mission aspirations and the current environment that is also toxic, it may not be a match for your hope to be realized. Grieve that realization. Staying in these environments may cause your inner spark and core stability to dwindle dangerously low.

Keys To Your Currency: We all get to write the check for change we commit our lifeforce energy to. We all get to add up the direct and indirect costs of change and determine if we have the capacity to invest in financing change mentally, physically and spiritually at this time. Balancing this checkbook bridges courageousness and self care. Face the challenges fully. If environments are too toxic and your heart-centered why remains a strong yes, actively intend to find your peeps who are also facing the challenges and combine your core stabilities and hope to innovate awareness-based systems change as a grounded tribe and engage life teaching you the purpose reps that expand your capacity.

Active Coping & Longer Term Change
While watching an episode of Live To 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, when Dan visited a community of centenarians, one contributing factor to their quality of life was the practice of active coping. In a community of shepherds and protectors, the centenarians were actively coping, solving the moment-by-moment opportunities to cope with present and shorter-term stressors. Dr. Mithu Storoni, author of Stress-Proof: The Scientific Solution to Protect Your Brain and Body — and Be More Resilient Every Day asserts that in most of our environments through the internet and social media, we are flooded with worldwide and local problems that are not immediately solvable. One way to be with this complexity awareness (identified as an inner development goal to be with longer-term change whose gardens we till and whose fruit may be eated by future generations) is to face it and also actively cope and bring your awareness to shorter-term problems you can solve. According to Dr. Storoni, active coping is a very important part of mental health, cognitive longevity, and stress resilience. In the consulting world, we call active coping tending to low-hanging fruit knowing it is a part of the garden. In my grandmother’s vernacular, she would say, “Baby, sometimes the trash just needs to be taken out. Take out the trash and see what’s around the corner.”

My wish for us is that we embody practices that invite us to increase our awareness of places that no longer fit and also offer space to connect with what’s next. Practice the reps and inner development goals that support and fuel your courage to face the unknown and former familiar with care, radical tenderness, and compassion.

Consider joining an upcoming weekend retreat to explore, When Mission Is Not Enough, in a small online group of peeps across industries and roles who recognize the call to this adventure. Check out one of the info sessions here.


Buettner, D. (2023) Living to 100: The Secrets of Blue Zones. Netflix Limited Series

Maté, G., & Maté, D. (2022). The myth of normal: trauma, illness, & healing in a toxic culture. Avery.

Science of Purpose (2023) Available online at www.scienceofpurpose.org.

Yemiscigil, A., Yilmaz, M. & Lee, M. (2023) How to find your purpose. Harvard Business Review.

Dena Wiggins (she/her/hers) is an author, innovator, and MBA-informed purpose doula. She wholeheartedly believes that purpose is the birthright of humanity referring to humanity as Purpose Peeps. Dena’s sweet spot of service is to transform survival stuckness into thriving lives and places of purpose. This shift is vital to healing systemic oppression and exclusion that is the antithesis of thriving purpose. She is the creator of Unlock The Keys App, Unlock The Keys To Your Success & Turn Them Into Results® Personal and Organization Strategy, and A Life of Purpose®. Dena is a Certified Purpose Coach, Master Soulful Facilitator, Coach of Gene Keys, Human Design, IKIGAI, Kinesiologist, and Circle Host through TED Circles, Lean In, and Feel Real platforms. She bridges the art, science, and soul of results that matter. Learn more at www.denawiggins.com.