Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you didn’t have a purpose? It would be quite meaningless, right? We all need that one reason to pull us out of bed every morning and help make sense of our life. That purpose can be anything—from finding a cure for Alzheimer’s to saving your neighborhood park from encroachment.
Sometimes, it can be something as ordinary as cooking. Just like in the 2009 Hollywood film Julie & Julia, where cooking helped a young blogger, Julie Powell, and iconic American chef, author and TV star Julia Child find their purpose. Or what the Japanese call Ikigai, which roughly translates as the reason for living.
For Child, brought to life by the inimitable Meryl Streep, learning to cook French cuisine was her purpose. And for Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, it was a year-long challenge of cooking all 524 recipes from Child’s debut bestseller Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it. Once they discovered their purpose, it became easier for them to turn around their mundane lives.
Child found her purpose when her diplomat husband was transferred to Paris and she found herself with nothing to do. She tried her hand at hat making and learning to play bridge but both bored her to death. She then walked into Le Cordon Bleu—the renowned culinary arts and hotel management institute—to learn French cuisine. Until then, she knew she loved to eat, but she only discovered cooking French cuisine at the institute.
Her foray into French cuisine led her to collaborate with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to write the first-ever book on French cuisine for Americans. The success of that book led Child to write more books on French cuisine and host television shows.
Eventually, Child made French cooking accessible to the so-called “servantless” Americans in the 1960s with the publication of her 726-page magnum opus. And she went on to become a culinary icon whose kitchen, designed by her husband, is on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC.
Powell, on the other hand, took up the blog project to boost her self-esteem—her job at a call center answering rude and irritable callers was frustratingly boring. She knew that she loved cooking, was Child’s greatest fan, and thought of herself as a writer. Once she realized this fact, it gave her something to look forward to every evening after she returned from work and got down to cooking one of Child’s recipes from the book. Her blog became popular and a feature in the New York Times, fetching her book propositions.
Like Julie and Julia, all of us also need to discover our purpose in life. At the end of the day, the key to success and happiness at work and in life lies in discovering your ikigai. Harappa’s Discovering Purpose course helps you figure out your strengths, passions, and values so you stay motivated at work. And stay happy at work. The course tells us that it’s this purpose that helps us make decisions in life and leads us to happiness.
Even when facing setbacks, it’s important to not let go of your goal. Powell’s husband, for instance, left her as she prioritized her blog and cooking over their marriage but that didn’t dishearten her. She won her husband back and returned to her project with renewed vigor. Similarly, Child had to leave Paris after her husband was transferred but that didn’t stop her from working on her book.
Watching Julie & Julia is like getting to know two very different women in different time periods but who are similar in the pursuit of their ikigai. This is a perfect weekend watch to relax, enjoy, and be inspired. Who knows you may discover your ikigai this weekend!
Meenakshi Kumar is a consultant at Harappa Education. A former journalist, she is now discovering an entire new world of good habits
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