February 28, 2020

Transform your outlook on life and career with ‘ikigai’

The journey of self-discovery to find your true purpose – your ‘ikigai’ – can be richly rewarding

Everyone has a reason for being or a purpose in life; it could be what we love, what we’re good at, what the world needs, or even what we get paid for our work. But the overarching theme of all this is what the Japanese call “ikigai”.

Many of us struggle to find not just our true potential and to unlock it to live a fulfilling life. Pursuing ikigai — an all-round reason for being — might even seem like an unrealistic approach in the context of the workplace. Many of us, after all, have this mindset that we need money to survive and we can’t always be too picky about what we do in life.

In many ways, I cannot argue with this fact of life that we do require money to get by. As a business leader myself, sales will always be an important factor for my business. Without sales, I cannot generate the revenue required to keep my business running, my staff employed, and cater to the needs of my customers. My mission and vision — to contribute to enhancing the education of our nation — would be nothing without it.

But ikigai isn’t about just pursuing one’s passion — it overlaps with the skills we’re great at, what the world needs and what people are willing to pay for. In other words, getting paid or earning money is part of the formula in ikigai.

The tough part isn’t about earning the money, but more so in finding the overlap of all the factors in the ikigai concept.

But you might still be asking: how can the concept of ikigai change my outlook on life and career, and why does it even matter, to begin with?

We’ve all come to a crossroads at some point of our lives — our careers might be unfulfilling for a number of reasons, or our lives just haven’t panned out the way we imagined or wanted them to. These realisations can bring forth unfulfilling and negative feelings, affecting everything else that we do — including how was see our lives and careers from that point on.

We may not be able to immediately find our ikigai but it can help us shift the way we look at our lives and our careers. Once we make that shift, we can begin to build the life and career we actually want for ourselves.

So when we shift our perspective towards the ikigai concept, we’ll see everything — from challenges to wins — as opportunities to discover our true calling. This closely relates to a concept called the Growth Mindset. This mindset is about learning from the challenges you face and seeing failure as an opportunity to grow.

So, how do I tap into my ikigai to design the life that I want?

Here are some steps you can take to begin.

First, lay out what you’re good at.

We can’t always immediately spell out what we’re passionate about, but we can clearly say what our skills are. This could be work-related skills that you’ve built over the years, or other talents you may have outside of work.

Second, step out of your comfort zone and try new things.

Reskilling is one of the many ways to do this. To reskill is to depart from your usual habits and routine to learn new skills beyond what you already know. Even though the concept of ikigai says that we need to be good at certain skills, it doesn’t mean we’re limited to what we know.

Additionally, when we step out of our usual routine, we can also discover new passions. We might even discover that we’re great at this new thing that we never tried before.

Third, come to terms with failure and mistakes as a stepping stone toward success.

When we try something new, there is a chance that we might fail or that we don’t enjoy it as much as we anticipated. These are just lessons to learn from, not an obstacle that stops us at our tracks. Again, think about the growth mindset here.

Fourth, allow yourself to take your time and build toward making ikigai a habit.

Unfortunately, finding our purpose doesn’t happen overnight. While some people might be lucky to have already figured it out, many might have an idea but not a clear picture yet. This is why it is important to take time to figure it out and make it part of your daily routine.

Ikigai is indeed a beautiful concept but not many are able to maintain the journey to finding their purpose. But it is worth the journey, as you will discover new things about yourself that you otherwise would never have known.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com