Where did the Purpose Diagram come from?

In 2012 I published a simple Euler diagram on my former blog (which was a desolate place at that time; I think the only person who read every post was my mom). I found the old chart among my files, prettified it and put in on Facebook in April 2014. Someone slapped it on Instagram in black and white, where Tiffany Chan found it and posted it via Shanti Ughanda in September. Just a few weeks later, the diagram had been shared over 26,000 times….

Over the last years, the diagram continued to spread. People have been using it as a post card motive, having discussions, creating videos, printing t-shirts and talking about it on their TED talks. The concept was popularised with “ikigai” in the centre, apparently a japanese term that describes your “reason for being”. There are workshops being led, books and magazines published on the matter and my heart swells every time these simple four circles are a starting point of any conversation.

What’s the origin of the diagram?

I can only tell you where it come from through me. My chart was a modified version of a kindergarten teachers diagram. Her name is Ms Dorothy and she wrote a post titled “Reflecting on What I Do” on her blogspot blog where she (used to?) give out educational advice. Her diagram placed “bliss” in the centre and the in between fields were vocation, passion, career, charity, satisfaction, comfort, contentment and fulfilment.

She was inspired by Aristotle Bancale who published his graph on G+ and seems to have been inspired by Simon Kemp‘s version of Bud Caddell‘s 3-circle Venn diagram…

In other words, this information is nothing new. Countless people all over the globe are finding ways of understanding and illustrating work that is not just based on an exchange of payment and life energy.

Based on countless comments, conversations and feedback and work with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I created an extended version of the chart, naming all the in between fields and identifying the patterns of where we get stuck, depending on where we see ourselves on the diagram.

Purpose Diagram Origin.png


I regularly use the chart as a self-check and diagnostic tool for leaders and entrepreneurs who are stuck in a rut.

The Purpose Test (which is free and you’re welcome to take as often as you want) offers a playful take on the approach. Next to helping you identify where on the diagram you are, it tells you what inner “bullshit monsters” you may encounter there.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the diagram. Talk to me!