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The Ikigai Concept and Discovering Purpose at Work

As busy professionals, we often find ourselves in the midst of a bustling, fast-paced world where our roles extend beyond the traditional. This is especially the case for the executive and administrative assistants that we train at Office Dynamics International who are not just assistants but strategic partners, team builders, and problem solvers. In this dynamic environment, it becomes vital to cultivate a deep sense of purpose to guide us in our professional journey. One powerful way to achieve this is by discovering our ‘Ikigai’.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai involves the convergence of your loves, skills, societal needs, and financial compensation. It’s where your passion, mission, vocation, and profession converge. Office Dynamics CEO Joan Burge discovered Ikigai through her admiration for Marcus Buckingham, co-author of the book Nine Lies About Work. Buckingham challenges conventional wisdom and offers a fresh perspective on our understanding of work and leadership. In Nine Lies About Work, Buckingham, along with co-author Ashley Goodall, dissects commonly held beliefs about work and replaces them with ‘freethinking’ ideas. They effectively debunk misconceptions using robust data, engaging storytelling, and practical strategies.

Buckingham’s expertise lies in his ability to redefine traditional notions of work, performance, and leadership. His insights inspire readers to question the status quo and approach their professional lives with a renewed sense of purpose and autonomy. Nine Lies About Work is a call to action for all professionals, including executive and administrative assistants, to realize their full potential and create a more truthful, productive, and fulfilling work environment. Joan believes this book is a critical element in every professional’s library.

Buckingham’s insights inspired Joan to delve deeper into understanding personal fulfillment in the workplace, leading her to the transformative concept of Ikigai which she now teaches specifically to administrative and executive assistants in her flagship course, the Star Achievement Series. This blog explores how you can find your Ikigai and infuse more meaning and purpose into your work.

Understanding Ikigai

Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese term that combines two words: iki, which can be translated to “alive” or “life,” and gai, which can be translated as “benefit” or “worth.” Together, they form a principle that translates to “that which gives life meaning, worth or purpose.” The idea of Ikigai centers around the belief held in traditional Japanese medicine that our physical health is intricately tied to our mental-emotional well-being and our sense of purpose in life.

Picture Ikigai as a Venn diagram where four circles – what you love, what you excel at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for – overlap. The intersection of these circles is your Ikigai. It is the sweet spot where passion, mission, vocation, and profession meet, creating a balanced and fulfilling life. Finding your Ikigai involves a journey of self-discovery and introspection. It’s about aligning your personal passions and strengths with the needs of the world around you and finding a way to make a living from it. This alignment creates a sense of purpose that drives both personal satisfaction and professional success.

Ikigai ven diagram written on a napkin
Picture Ikigai as a Venn diagram with four circles: what you love, what the world needs, your skills, and what you can be paid for.

Finding your Ikigai can significantly contribute to your professional growth in several profound ways. It can serve to:

  1. Enhance job satisfaction
  2. Fuel motivation and productivity
  3. Foster strength and resilience
  4. Promote ongoing learning and growth
  5. Improve your decision-making
  6. Encourage work-life harmony

With so much potential for positive growth and transformation, finding your Ikigai is a vital journey for every professional.

Finding Your Ikigai: A Step-by-Step Guide

Navigating the path to discovering your Ikigai may seem daunting, but by applying a methodical approach, you are capable of tapping into this as a tool. Through introspection and reflection, you can align your passions, skills, societal needs, and potential for financial compensation. Here lies your roadmap for a more meaningful professional journey. Let’s embark on this exploration together.

Identify What You Love

The first step in finding your Ikigai is to identify what you genuinely love doing. These are things that spark joy and enthusiasm in you, activities that you could spend hours on without losing interest. Take some time exploring what you truly love doing.

Discover What You’re Good At

Next, identify your strengths. What are you naturally good at? What are those things that you feel like a rock star while doing? Perhaps it’s communication, conflict resolution, attention to detail, or the ability to stay calm under pressure. These are your skills and talents – the things that come effortlessly to you.

Recognize What the World Needs

Consider what the world (or your company) needs that aligns with what you love and are good at. Do some research on this step. This could be things like efficiency, empathy, or innovation. How can you use your skills and passions to make a positive impact?

Determine What You Can Be Paid For

Finally, consider what people are willing to pay for. We’ve got to make a living, right? This is where your passion meets with your profession. Can you use your skills and talents to create a valuable service or product that people are willing to invest in?

By identifying these four aspects of your life – love, skills, societal needs, and financial compensation – you can begin to see where they intersect. This is where Ikigai resides.

Aligning Your Ikigai with Your Role

Once you’ve identified these four elements, the next step is to align them with your role. As administrative professionals, we have the unique advantage of being involved in various aspects of the business, giving us the opportunity to find our Ikigai within our multifaceted roles. Remember: The concept of Ikigai encourages you to explore the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be compensated for. By doing so, you can identify the aspects of your role that truly engage and motivate you. Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of organizing a successful meeting, the thrill of problem-solving, or the joy of supporting others in achieving their goals. Here are a few ideas on how to align your Ikigai with your role:

  • Leverage Your Strengths: Identify ways to use your skills and talents within your role. For example, if you excel at communication, take on tasks that involve communicating with clients or stakeholders.
  • Incorporate Your Passions: Incorporate activities that you love into your daily work routine. For instance, if you enjoy organizing events, take on event planning tasks or offer to assist with office celebrations.
  • Make a Positive Impact: Look for ways to make a positive impact within your company and beyond. This could be through volunteering, mentoring, or participating in community initiatives.

By aligning your Ikigai with your role, you can infuse more meaning and purpose into your work, making it more fulfilling and rewarding. This isn’t about merely completing tasks on your to-do list, but rather, it’s about seeing how your work contributes to the bigger picture, how it brings value to your organization, and how it resonates with your personal values and passions. It may also inspire you to seek out new opportunities within your role that align with your Ikigai, further enhancing your job satisfaction and professional growth.

Your work as an executive or administrative assistant is more than just a job. It’s an opportunity to express your unique skills, interests, and values, and to make a positive impact in your workplace. So, discover your Ikigai, align it with your role, and watch as your work becomes a source of fulfillment and purpose.

Ikigai: A Journey, Not a Destination

Finding your Ikigai is a journey, not a destination. As our passions, skills, and environments evolve, so too may our understanding of our purpose. It’s about continual growth and discovery. As you evolve, so might your Ikigai. Keep exploring, keep learning, and keep growing. Your work is an extension of you. When you find your Ikigai, you don’t just become a better assistant; you become a happier, more fulfilled individual.

The Process of Transformation

Finding your Ikigai is a transformative process that can lead to greater job satisfaction, improved performance, and personal growth. As we navigate the complex terrain of our roles, Ikigai can be a compass that helps us discover a more fulfilling professional life with greater purpose.

Perhaps you are ready to take the next step and expand your impact as an administrative professional. Consider the Star Achievement Series, a robust online designation course built for assistants who are looking to learn from a seasoned professional. Learn more about this dynamic series and discover upcoming training dates on the Star Achievement Series course page.


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