What is the why behind everything that you do?
When we know this in life or design, it is very empowering, and the path is clear.Jack Canfield
When did you last ask yourself ‘why’ you are doing what you are doing?
Steve Jobs, for most of his life, would get out of bed in the morning and ask himself,
‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’
I don’t think I actively asked myself this until I was made redundant and, was actually forced to take time out, and reflect. (I refer to this now as, ‘getting off the hamster wheel of life’!)
What did I want to do, and why?
I loved my job, or so I thought I did, and I gave it my all, always. But something was niggling at me. I used to say, that I felt like I wasn’t ‘adding value’ anymore.
Now I realise, what I was saying was, ‘this is no longer fulfilling me’.
More and more people (particularly in Western society) are falling victim to a feeling of disillusionment that stems from a loss of meaning and purpose in their lives. A lack of purpose can increase the risk of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, resulting in poorer sleep, and worsening health.
In challenging times, a sense of purpose and meaning is key.
German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said,
He who has a why can endure any how.
And, the inspirational Viktor Frankl, who endured unbelievable hardship during the holocaust wrote,
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
The Forbes article, ‘Do You Know Your “Why?” 4 Questions To Find Your Purpose’ reflects on the power of purpose, particularly in the face of challenge and adversity;
‘If you’ve ever faced a significant crisis in your life you’ll have experienced the power of purpose to tap reserves of energy, determination, and courage you likely didn’t know you had. Your mission was clear. Your goal was compelling. Your focus was laser-like. Your potential was tapped. The power of purpose is similar to the energy of light focused through a magnifying glass. Diffused light has little use, but when its energy is concentrated—as through a magnifying glass—that same light can set fire to paper. Focus its energy even more, as with a laser beam, and it has the power to cut through steel. Likewise, a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to take risks and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles.’
Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving!). Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.
In trying to find their ‘why’ some have turned to the East, most recently, to the ancient Japanese concept of ‘ikigai’ which means, roughly translated, ‘to live the realization one hopes for’. Iki means “life,” whereas gai means ‘value’ or ‘worth’. Gai comes from the word kai meaning “shell.” This refers back to the Heian period (794 to 1185) when shells were considered valuable.
We can interpret ikigai as finding value in one’s life or discovering one’s purpose.
Exploring the concept of ikigai and the questions that come with it, can help one find a solid purpose and through this, contentment and drive.
The whole concept has been boiled down to four questions:
1) What do you love?
2) What are you good at?
3) What does the world need from you?
4) What can you get paid for?
If you’re retired, you may not have to worry about what you can be paid for, so you can delete that one and focus on the remaining three. The idea is not only to find your purpose but the proper balance between all aspects surrounding it. Another consideration, one’s ikigai doesn’t affect the individual alone. For the Japanese, the concept has a social element. It’s about getting comfortable with your role in your family, job, and society.
Ikigai author Hector Garcia states, ‘that it all snaps into place when you get engrossed in a task and achieve that flow state’. Garcia asks,
‘Have you ever been so absorbed in a task that you forget to drink and eat?’,
‘What type of task was it? Notice those moments when you enter flow, and your Ikigai might be embedded in those moments.’
Author Dan Buettner suggests that you should write three lists; The first is your values, the second things enjoy doing, and the last, things you are good at.
According to Dan, ‘The cross-section of the three lists is your ikigai,’
In week 1 of the MENS SANA – ‘Healthy Mind’ coaching programme that I deliver, we explore goal setting, and ‘Finding your Ikigai’. To learn more, click here, and do get in touch to discuss how we can work together to help you find your ikigai; your purpose, and direction in life.