Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept for that which gives you a sense of purpose, meaning, motivation and/or fulfillment. It’s a “raison d'être” (reason for being) at the intersection of:

  • What you love to do
  • What the world needs
  • What your skills are, and
  • What you can earn money for.

However, in this modern age, especially for entrepreneurs and freedompreneurs, Ikigai is missing one factor: sustainability

Living Fulfilling Freedom

I know for many old souls, overachievers, polymaths, entrepreneurs and wayshowers, the word “purpose” can be suuuuuuper triggering. It’s as if you’re NOT allowed to exist or proceed with life, if you don’t have that one tidy purpose, wrapped in a Canva bow.

So let’s take “purpose” off the table and explore the 5 Freedom Factors. ⤵︎ 

Fulfillment Chessboard - 5 Freedom Factors

TALENT • If you do something only because you have the skills, that’s a talent.
HOBBY • If you do something only because you love it, that’s a hobby.
PHILANTHROPY • If you do something only because the world needs it, that’s charity. (Eg. You don’t have to have any skills to click the “Donate” button.)
HUSTLE • If you do something only because you want profit, that’s a hustle. (You will never be fulfilled.)

Let’s start with hobby. You don’t have to be any good at it, ever. The world doesn’t need it, which is not the point of a hobby anyway. And you’re definitely not making any money from it. In fact, it’s by not making any money, that you protect the joy and sacredness of your hobby. I often say, “The fastest way to kill joy is to force a hobby into a business.”

CALLING • Then one day, the Universe stirs your soul from its slumber and calls you forth to make your contribution to the world. Tag, you’re it! You may or may not have asked for it, but the Universe lulled or summoned you to quit lawyering to write books, to quit VP’ing to build a wellness retreat center, or quit web designing at $50,000/month to coach/teach freedom. That’s a calling. But just because the Universe called you, doesn’t mean she owes you a lucrative living.

VOCATION • Should you choose to enact your free will, and dedicate yourself to your craft, and make it profitable, then you have a vocation. This is where conscious incompetence can trigger a spiral of uncertainty, anxiety, and/or self-doubt. If you do the work and become very talented at your vocation, then you enter the realm of Fulfilling Freedom.

LUCK/GIG • If you happen to make a profit out of what you love, but have no talent and the world doesn’t need it, isn’t that just… dumb luck. I mean, even babysitting takes some skills. You could also call it a gig, like a band playing at a house party for peanuts, because it’s fun and/or great practice toward a future career.

PASSION • Now, if you’re actually talented at your hobby, naturally or by training, then you have a passion 🔥. This is where lots of creatives suffer, delusionally frustrated by why their passion isn’t paying for their lifestyle. It was never supposed to! Who said it should? Passion is nowhere near the money wedge.

MISSION • If your passion project evolves into contributing to what the world needs, then you’re a woman on a mission. But just because you’re on a fierce mission, the Universe still doesn’t owe you a lucrative living. If you do the work and make your mission profitable, then you enter the realm of Fulfilling Freedom.

CAREER • If there is skill, profit, love, but no need, then you have a career. Think of the makers and artists who just continue to make, whether you are making an impact or not. Enough people buy your product/service, so you’re good to go! (If you feel triggered or insulted that the world doesn’t need your career, it’s often a sign that you are unfulfilled inside and frustrated that you don’t know how to attain the freedom you seek.)

JOB • If you don’t love your career, then you have a job. You don’t have to love your job. ← Read that again 🤯. Just do your job, and do it well. That’s it.

PROFESSION • If there is skill, profit, no love, but need, then you have a profession. Eg. A surgeon can be super talented and well paid for surgeries that their patients indeed need. But you don’t have to love the work, nor the hospital, nor the people. You do your profession, do the adulting, and can seek fulfillment elsewhere.

RESPONSIBILITY • If there’s skill and need, but you’re not paid and you don’t love it, then it’s a responsibility, almost like a civic duty. Think of responsibility as: response-ability, your ability to respond. You don’t have to do it, you still have free will. But it’s well regarded if you do and there's an unspoken pressure if you don't.

SERVICE • And lastly, if you’re at the intersection of need and profit, it’s called a service. This is where “poor starving artists” suffer, delusionally thinking they have to give away their product/service for free. Service is not charity. Charity tends to be a one-way offer from giver to receiver. Service is a two-way exchange between goods/services for money. It’s not evil, it’s just service.


One-size does NOT fit all

Remember: you don't have to force your work into a be-all-and-end-all singular chess piece. You can cover the chessboard of life with as many chess pieces as you'd like!

Example 1 • The realtor + wakeboarder makes grrreat money selling homes (SKILL ✓ + MONEY ✓) and hovers between profession (NEED ✓) and job (no NEED) on weekdays. And she spends her weekends at the lake wakeboarding (LOVE ✓ + SKILL ✓).

Fulfillment Chessboard - Realtor


Example 2 • The dentist + novelist does his job (SKILL ✓ + MONEY ✓), zen and not bothered that he doesn't like it. He volunteers as a tree planter from time to time (PHILANTHROPY ✓). What he loves, loves, loves most is writing novels (LOVE ✓). ⤵︎

Fulfillment Chessboard - Dentist

Sustainability Factor

If you can’t gracefully and joyfully sustain:

  • what you love, then you’re like an Alice in Wonderland, in perpetual free fall, with the fire of what you love at the bottom of the rabbit hole, threatening to consume you. Not sustainable 🚫.
  • what the world needs, then you’re a skyholder or martyr, tossing yourself on the fire to keep others warm. Not sustainable 🚫.
  • the ongoing development of your skills, then you’re a rusty past tenseself-development junkie, or swing between the two, always seeking, never finding. Not sustainable 🚫.
  • how you earn money, then you’re carried out in a stretcher to the Emergency Room, live in perpetual financial PTSD, or survive barely between the two. Not sustainable 🚫.

How do you get to the enter of fulfilling freedom? Through Opportestiny: opportunities + tests + destiny.


1. Assess your business’s Fulfilling Freedom and rate the 5 Freedom Factors: Love, Need, Skill, Money, Sustainability, on a scale of 1 (low, furthest away from Fulfilling Freedom) to 8 (high, nearest to Fulfilling Freedom). ⤵︎
Fulfillment Lotus - Worksheet

2. Check the case studies below to identify if you’re like Marya the Replicator, Emily the Restarter, or Anna the Hobbyist.

3. Extra Credit • Just because you have an idea, doesn't mean it's a good idea 😛. Use the 5 Freedom Factors to sift for gold, rating the 5 Freedom Factors for each idea. Remember: from 1 (low) is furthest away from Fulfilling Freedom and 8 (high) is nearest to Fulfilling Freedom. See the shape of your idea, literally. Execute only one or two of the smallest, roundest shaped ideas, representing highest overall Love, Skill, Need, Money, Sustainability ratings.

Case Studies

Are you like Marya, the Replicator?

Fulfillment Lotus - Replicator

  • Skills ✔ - Marya built a marketing agency based on her corporate career
  • Need ✔ - Other corporations need her skills
  • Money ✔ - She still gets paid well and sustains her lifestyle


  • Love ✘ - She’s burnt out by the one-woman-show, constant marketing of her marketing agency, stress of working on her business while working in her business, limitations of the dollar-for-hour model. She resents the work she once loved.
  • Sustainability ✘ - While coaching with Ellany, she realized that replicated her corporate career, but worse. She now has to be and skyhold the Tech team, HR team, Operations team, Marketing team, and Creative team by her lone wolf self. It’s not her fault, she was never shown any other way, until Ellany’s guidance.

Are you like Emily, the Restarter?

Fulfillment Lotus - Restarter

  • Love ✔ - Emily absolutely adores speaking at women's empowerment events
  • Need ✔ - The world desperately needs gender equality and strong female role models
  • Money ✔ - Thanks to her previous athletic career that catapulted her onto the world stage, her fame pays her well for her talks


  • Skills ✘ - She’s a chatterbox but teaching and charismatic storytelling aren’t her fortes. 
  • Sustainability ✘ - Imposter syndrome is flooding in and starting to sabotage her speaking vocation. With Ellany’s guidance, she discovered The Heroine’s Journey and learned to alchemize the fire of identity re-invention

Are you like Anna, the Hobbyist?

Fulfillment Lotus - Hobbyist

  • Love ✔ - Anna absolutely looooooves cooking and all things nutrition
  • Skills ✔ - With natural talent plus training, she excels at wellness coaching
  • Need ✔ - The world more than needs nourishment and well-being 


  • Money ✘ - She's over-working and under-charging. While coaching with Ellany, she realized that she needs to do much inner work to raise her self-worth.
  • Sustainability ✘ - Without a profitable business model and expert support teams, she has a valiant mission, but not a business. With Ellany’s guidance, she made the brave choice to restore her mission back to passion and pursue a different profession instead. Learn from her, know when to let go.

If you take away just one thing from the 5 Freedom Factors, let it be: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Live fierce, live free,

xo, Ella

(First Published Nov 30, 2016)


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