Who are you becoming?
In my last blog, I dove into the idea that success is truly about one single idea: bringing our BEING and DOING into full alignment. It’s an ancient idea and one that deserves more than a philosophical overview.
Maybe it’s because I am at a major crossroads (having recently decided to go back to independent consulting and coaching). Maybe it’s because I am having multiple discussions with folks who want their businesses to have a genuine purpose. Maybe it’s simply because I have this macabre desire to maximize the time that have left in my life. Regardless, I am genuinely intrigued by the power of living authentically, of giving everything that I have to only the essentials (and ignoring the non-essentials as much as possible).
If you are equally drawn into this idea, let me ask you a question: Who do you want to become, and what do you need to do to move in that direction?
Like I said, it’s an old question. But do you have a ready answer?
I know that just a few months ago, I didn’t have a clear answer. To be honest, my answer is still being worked out, but it is much less vague.
Pause. I feel like I need to offer a simple framework for anchoring our discussion. Let’s use ikigai, the Japanese word for your own personal sense of purpose. And at risk of translating a complex concept into social media-friendly talking points, let’s use the four main questions that are associated with defining ikigai today:
- What do you love?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for?
Look at the first question: What do you love? Let me start by quickly calling out one very important idea – the question does not add “doing” at the end. That is significant. Because what we may love could easily be an ideal like beauty, faith, or even truth. And what we love could easily be translated into who we love – which would suggest that we love relationships, community, and/or even intimacy.
But I caution against answering this question with a verb. I have found that it leads to feeding the success addiction. It leads to that driven state so many of us know, where we pursue one achievement after another, constantly “doing” yet never fully satisfied.
So, what do you love? What makes you feel both intense satisfaction and also the desire to pursue and protect it more? Stop now and write it down. Seriously. Write it down before we continue.
Now, let’s look at the second question: What are you good at? And by good, I mean better than average. Maybe even far beyond better than average – as in exceptional (or you have the potential to be exceptional). These are your gifts and abilities that you can easily make even stronger. And to be fair, many of these things can be developed more through dedicated practice than through genetic blessing. We just have to commit to doing the work. Hint: include the things that you do exceptionally that might not show up in your work life. Again, write it down.
Look at the third question now: What does the world need? And by world, let me simply offer that you can define “the world” as the one you can interact with. Is it your community? Your nation? Or beyond? What needs do you see in that world? What unfulfilled opportunities exist there? Your answer could be small (like a better way to plan the use of time at work) or huge (addressing poverty in developing countries). If I may, gently limit your scope to the things that tug at your heart. Write your answer down.
Finally, let’s tackle the last question: What can you be paid for? I personally struggle with this last question, especially as I look at approaching the age where I simply want to work without the need for compensation so that my time is truly focused on only the essentials – but we all have obligations to cover, yeah?
So, how can you turn your efforts into revenue? And don’t lock yourself into just what pays a paycheck from an employer. There are many ways to make money that don’t involve a boss (self-employment, seasonal contract work, fund-raising, managing your financial assets, etc.). But if you were to find a way to monetize your contributions so that you could be paid to do what you love to do, what could you be paid for? Write it down.
Mirror moment: How hard is it for you to quickly write down answers? Do they rush forward from your subconscious, or does your brain go silent as you struggle to make something up that at least sounds like a decent answer? Have you already given thought to reflect on these ideas, or is this the first time in a long while (perhaps the first time ever) that you have tried to wrestle with your truly authentic purpose?
THIS is the reason I am writing this post. If you are finding this exercise hard to do, I strongly encourage you to let the next sentence you read sink into the depths of your soul…
Your life has purpose.
You exist for a reason. Do not let your current situation define you. It is simply part of your life story. Just like your past does not define you. What defines you is who you are on the inside – and the beautiful potential that it holds. What defines YOU is who you choose to become.
And I hope that knowing your passion (what you love), your talents (what you are good at), your opportunity (what the world needs from you), and your assets (what you can be paid for) inspires you to dream even bigger about who you can become. Because once you know who you want to become, you can take the steps to make it happen.
Or as Epictetus once said, “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”
I mua. Onward and upward.
(Like what you’re reading? Please follow this blog and join the conversation.)