Have you heard of ikigai? It’s a Japanese term that doesn’t have a direct translation in English. However, the concept revolves around your reason for being, your meaning or purpose in life.
I love learning new words because like John Keating once said, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” When I was introduced to the word ikigai, I instantly saw that it had that kind of power, especially for leaders.
How do you identify your ikigai? It lies in the center of four intersecting circles – what you love, what you do well, what the world needs, and what you’re paid for doing.
This is just the concept leaders need to embrace now that we are shifting from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. We’re transitioning to a new economic framework that, especially for millennials, is rooted in purpose. Today your job in and of itself is not your purpose, as it was in previous generations.
As I consider my own Ikigai if find…
What I love is to bring out the best in others.
What I do well is coach, train, and mentor others.
What the world needs is exceptional leaders who are committed to learning.
What I’m paid for is to develop exceptional leaders.
I feel joy when I “do” that work. I feel whole and connected. I am living my purpose.
However, finding my ikigai has required concentrated effort on my part. It’s been a work in progress for decades. I used to “do” A LOT. I was a great Principal. I was nationally recognized. I was doing “principal stuff” and I had the student achievement data and high performing teachers to prove it. But I was so busy doing, that I forgot to take care of me, and I was forced to slow down. Being ‘busy’ with ‘doing’ didn’t give me any grounding, it just filled up all my space, time and energy with purposefulness but not purpose.
Having clarity around your ikigai or purpose is essential for leaders.
Leadership is life-changing, and not just for those you lead. What we know, from the early findings in neuroscience in particular, is that to work with others, to develop our communities, we must first focus on ourselves. Our ability to develop ourselves quite literally increases our capacity to support and lead others. In fact, discovering your own ikigai can be the first step in creating a deeper and more motivating purpose for your entire team.
If you’re ready to dig deeper into your purpose and how it impacts your team, I encourage you to download my special report, Leading a Purpose-Driven Team. You’ll discover new ways to ground your leadership with purpose and you’ll be introduced to a progressive model of team interaction.