Fulfillment Chessboard • Discern Passion, Calling, Mission, Profession and Career

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

But ikigai is missing one CRUCIAL factor in this modern age: sustainability. If you can't sustain your passion, you will burn your house down. If you can't sustain your service, you will martyr yourself to the patriarchy.

Success is not how high you climb. It's how far you've come... compared to yourself... 10 years ago.
– Ellany Lea

Living Fulfilling Freedom

For many overachievers, phoenixes, polymaths and entrepreneurs, “purpose” can be a suuuuuuper triggering word, as if you’re not allowed to exist without one tidy purpose statement wrapped in a Canva bow.

So let’s take “purpose” off the table and explore the 5 Freedom Factors: skill, love, need, money, and sustainability. ⤵︎

TALENT • If you do something only because you have that skill, 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.

HUSTLE • If you do something only for the money, that’s a hustle. (You will never be fulfilled.)

Fulfillment Overlaps

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 • Your work does NOT have to be the only chess piece on the board. Use as maaaaaany chess pieces as you like!

Example 1 • My realtor + wakeboarder friend makes grrreat money selling condos (SKILL + NEED + MONEY = profession). And she spends every weekend at the lake wakeboarding (LOVE  + SKILL = passion). All 5 freedom factors are covered, especially sustainability.

Fulfillment Chessboard - Realtor


Example 2 • My dentist + novelist friend goes to work 4 days a week (SKILL + MONEY = job), no drama. And he volunteers as a tree planter twice a year (NEED = philanthropy). But his most thrilling love is writing novels (LOVE = hobby). All 5 freedom factors are covered, especially sustainability. ⤵︎

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 center of fulfilling freedom? Through Opportestiny™, a journey of opportunity + test + destiny.


We can be so amnesiac about our progress. This is why tracking, seeing, and re-seeing our progress is soooooo crucial.

Move the chess piece of your life (career, or business reinventions) around this Fulfillment Chessboard to see with new eyes how faaaaaar you've truly come. It's time to Know your glory 👀🤩. ⤵︎

Fulfillment Chessboard - 5 Freedom Factors

Life is like playing chess with the Universe. Sometimes you think you're winning, other times It checkmates you. 👑♟

When it does, I promise you this truth: <state of being> journey = <state of being> outcome. So miserable journey = miserable outcome. And joyful journey = joyful outcome.

Who will you be? How will you be? Chose wisely 😘

Live fierce, live free,

xo, Ella

(First Published Nov 30, 2016)



Having navigated 131 countries, 87 emotions, 46.5 traumas, and 16 careers, Ellany Lea inspires and guides phoenixes, overachievers, entrepreneurs and wayshowers to live fierce, fulfilled and free.