In times of uncertainty, as we try to grow accustomed to our new reality, make sense of this exceptional situation that we find ourselves in, and just try to get through our daily routine, it is almost natural to go into self-reflection mode and question our own purpose.
For humanity that has been habituated to a life on-the-go being told to stop and reset, while doing absolutely nothing but staying at home and existing, can feel slightly overwhelming. In my sessions as a leadership and performance coach over the last few weeks, I find clients asking a number of existential questions and going deeper into introspection in the hope of unlocking their inner motivations. Finding fulfillment and equanimity, while looking to make some impact to save fragile humanity, seems to be dominant points in our conversations.
As we delve into the realm of understanding ourselves, our passions, and trying to find our purpose in life, I can’t help but pause to reflect on the popular Japanese concept of Ikigai or ‘reason for being’ that lends wonderfully to this orientation. The concept of Ikigai enables individuals to address aspects of work and life through a framework that comprises of the following Four P’s:
- Purpose: What are you good at?
- Profit: What can you get paid for?
- Problem-Solving: What does the world need?
- Passion: What do you love?
The meeting of all these points of passion, mission, vocation, and profession, according to Ikigai, forms the basis for what can be defined as a long and happy life.
In my own personal experience, I went on a similar self-discovery mission a few years ago where I looked at my own motivations, earning capabilities, options for work, the impact I wanted to make an inner fulfillment. It was this process that helped me in identifying and honing in on the profession I work in today.
From my own experience of self-discovery, I have listed a few ways that could help you in your journey of finding your purpose and connecting it to your reality:
- Understand what you are good at: Reflect on the different contributions you have made so far, whether at work, in life or previously during school or at university. Think about what people in your family and friends circle come to you for the most? List the findings of any personality assessments you have completed, previous reviews and feedback you have received, and any self-evaluations you have done over time. Be honest when examining what your role is when handling situations, your approach with people and building relationships, and what do you bring to a team or organization when you are a part of it? Articulate your values and how they serve you in your life and work. Remember, there are a number of tools and assessments available should you need more help in evaluating your potential.
- Reflect on peak experiences: Go back to a time in your life when you felt alive and driven by feelings of excitement and passion. Make a note of the last time you felt that way and if you had to bring those feelings to your current work and life, how would they manifest themselves? In a world where so much is uncertain in our external environment, we need to find that inner motivation and inspiration to move forward. Working to find our own drivers is essential before helping others navigate their path.
- Be practical: In my experience, when I ask clients to conduct the self-purpose exercise they tend to look at zones that exist outside of their work and earning capability. Even in the Ikigai, it is the intersection of four components of mission, passion, vocation and profession that contributes to long-term fulfillment. It’s important to take a realistic perspective and align your Ikigai with life as it exists in as much as unlocking newer avenues and opportunities. In a time of disruption and crisis, it is important to stay cautious during self-discovery.
- Consult those close to you: In times of uncertainty, it is our relationships and close ones that see us through. If you are questioning your purpose and passion, confide in your family and friends or get support from trained coaches or counselors. It is important to get as much feedback, perspective and support before you make any changes on account of your process of discovery.
- Keeping Perspective: In a shifting world where everything is uncertain, it is imperative to first stay functional, balanced and do what’s best for yourself, work and family.
The process of self-discovery, while it can be empowering needs to be treaded on carefully when making any life-changing decisions or taking drastic steps in these times. A question you can perhaps ask yourself in light of all else that is taking place is our external environment, is if this is the most important aspect for you to focus on? Remember to keep things in perspective at this time. Staying present while looking ahead, maybe more important given the crisis we are in today than finding that long-term meaning from life.
In the quest of finding our Ikigai or self-purpose in life, it is important to acknowledge that all the aspects of the Ikigai are constantly evolving and they will continue to shift through the course of our lives. While discovering our inner fulfillment in a given moment can feel very rewarding, it is equally essential to enjoy each moment for what it is and contribute to all situations today as best we can. Finding gratitude and appreciation in ourselves and those around us will be the first step that we can take towards valuing our ‘reason for being’.