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How to find your ikigai at work

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In a post pandemic world many of us find ourselves prioritizing “a reason for being” over career and work. If you're feeling lost with no direction in your career? What you need is to find your "ikigai," popularly defined as "your reason to wake up each day." Let's take a closer look at what ikigai means and how it can help you find your true purpose.

The global pandemic and the adjustment to a new normal has led to many people taking a moment to self-reflect and question one's own purpose. Before the crisis if you’d ask someone what gives them a sense of fulfilment, it would more often than not refer back to career goals or building a healthy financial nest for retirement.

The uncertainty of the global pandemic has led to many questioning their relationship with work and family, or their sense of belonging and value in the workplace. People have realized that there is more to life than being the most productive at work or punching in long work hours. As we all struggle to adjust to the current reality of the new normal, some of us may find it difficult to gain the motivation to keep going on the career treadmill.

More of us want to feel fulfilled; we want to have a purpose and a greater understanding of what our reason for being is. Our motivation is linked to our sense of purpose, and in these circumstances, the reason why we struggle so much can be easily lost in the haze of constant working. If you find yourself feeling directionless and completely unmotivated, try going on a journey to find what the Japanese call your "ikigai."

Ikigai: A Definition

You may have heard—or seen—what ikigai is. It is represented by those flower-like venn diagrams that have been gaining popularity online. Ikigai is a combination of the Japanese words “iki” (生き), meaning “life,” and “gai” (甲斐), which describes value or worth. In short, ikigai is your "reason to wake up in the morning."

Those who have studied the phenomenon believe that finding your own ikigai is linked to a longer life. According to Tokyo-based neuroscientist, broadcaster, and writer Ken Mogi, "when you can find pleasure and satisfaction in what you do and you’re good at it, you've found your ikigai."

However, this concept is not centered merely on the personal aspect of goals. Ikigai also describes a purpose that is rooted in serving the community. It highlights the importance and the happiness we gain from helping others and not just serving ourselves.

So if you feel like you're nowhere close to even having an idea of your ikigai, author Hector Garcia of "Ikigai: The Secret to a Long and Happy Life" suggests this method on how to find your ikigai:

Put together a list of the top 10 things you have spent your time on this week. Then, ask yourself whether they add purpose to your life. Then categorize them by asking:

  • Is it something that I love doing?
  • Is it something the world needs?
  • Is it something I’m good at?
  • Is it something I can get paid for?

Then, think of what purpose lies at the intersection of each question. That is where you can find your ikigai. If you can't think of anything concrete, that's perfectly fine. Finding your ikigai is meant to be done regularly, and thoughts and tastes change over time, so your ikigai will too.

Ikigai and Your Career: A Perfect Match?

Pursuing your ikigai, however, is not easy for everyone. Ikigai and job hunting won't always go together: many people have passions they love but they may not be good at them, nor can all passions sustain a family or household. It's one of the main reasons why many don't pursue their passions as a career.

There is a healthy debate over the interpretation of ikigai itself. Some say that one’s ikigai "does not have to involve something the world needs, or that you can get paid for, or that is a talent." Rather, it is "…embracing the joy of little things, being in the here and now, reflecting on past happy memories, and having a frame of mind that one can build a happy and active life." (Ikigai Tribe, 2019)

Now, we have a better idea of what our ikigai is. Then what? Author Dan Buettner tells readers that ikigai is "purpose in action." It is not enough to simply know what your ikigai is; you have to put it into action to truly see its benefits as the key to unlocking career happiness.

When you actively pursue your ikigai, you'll often find yourself in the company of others who are also following their ikigai. Being in the company of these individuals will create a good influence on you and nourish your own motivations at high levels.

Moreover, you learn to refine your understanding of your ikigai as you constantly reflect on career goals. By doing so, you gain better clarity of what you truly want to do and you are less likely to be constantly changing your mind or doubting the direction of your career path.

Also, since you are alert in finding your ikigai, you are more discerning of the choices you make. You may end up following many different career paths, but you will realize that they connect and form your ikigai journey. You'll think that your time searching has not gone to waste because it has led you to finding your career happiness.

There is no doubt that our careers are an important source of our happiness. But having high pay or working at an attractive location is not always enough to ensure our job satisfaction. Ikigai urges us to take a deeper look into the meaning behind our work, and how it really factors in our overall happiness.

Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing.  By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career.  The world is your oyster, and it starts with you. 

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