If you’re familiar with British-American author/speaker/consultant Simon Sinek, you already know he’s all about the why. If you don’t know about him, check out one of his videos or books. I promise it can help as you meet and talk with new people to expand your professional network (something we recommend doing on an ongoing basis, not just when looking for a job).
If I were to meet Simon, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’d start the conversation differently than the typical ho-hum way most Americans start conversations: “So what do you do?”
No, Simon is likelier to ask, “Why do you do the work you do?” That’s because research on decision-making and how our brains work helped him understand that first, people buy your why, and then they buy your what and your how.
It makes sense. We’re all natural storytellers, and authenticity reigns supreme, especially during times like these. We’re inspired by people who are purposeful, doing what they do for strong personal reasons, especially when they positively impact other individuals, teams, companies, even society at large.
What motivates you? Why do you do the work you do? And if you want to change that up a bit, why? What have you learned from your life and work experience so far that’s informing and influencing the choices you make next? That’s a story that’s often powerful, too.
Can you say IKIGAI?
Héctor García, the co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, wrote in The Guardian that Ikigai means "a reason for being – the thing that gets you out of bed each morning." It’s a very personal thing, different for each person, and work may or may not be part of it.
But since we spend so many hours/days/weeks/years of our lives working, it would be a good thing if it provided some meaning and value to us, as well as to others. It’s best seen in this Venn diagram:
Ask yourself: What do you love? What are you good at? What does the world need? What can you be paid for?
Then consider: where is the intersection between these four domains? That’s your ikigai.
If you can make your work live in that space, great! If not, what can you sift into your life a little more through other activities that make you happy--- like art, music, children, nature, or sports?
If you’re contemplating some version of retirement or an encore career, the choices and possibilities may be even greater.
Psychiatrist Kobayashi Tsukasa describes ikigai as “the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom.” And that can happen at any age, in any culture, at any time, under any financial circumstances. Who doesn’t want that?
The poet Rumi once said,” there are many ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” What’s yours?
What gives your life meaning? What gives your work meaning? And why do you want to do it?
If you’re not sure about your why, maybe a little time contemplating ikigai can help you get there.