The only thing stopping you from fulfilling your dreams is yourself. Once you understand this, or rather once you take responsibility for this, you can place yourself on a path towards transforming your passions into the lifestyle you want. It sounds euphoric, but realize that millions of people have done this and are living a life that is purposeful and meaningful to them. Knowing where to begin the journey may be difficult, but a little self-reflection can help you find your talent and establish a roadmap to find your ikigai.
Ikigai is the Japanese concept for living a meaningful life. Although there are a few definitions of ikigai, simply, it means, “your purpose in life.” Not necessarily the meaning of life as in a philosophical sense but rather a personal initiative in which we follow our passions for a life of purpose.
Ikigai without passion
Without much debate, most people conclude that the key to finding your ikigai is to identify what you are passionate about. Passion is such an integral characteristic of ikigai that most people believe that without it, finding your purpose in life is nearly impossible. And they are not wrong.
But, is knowing your passion always the first step in the journey? Without passion is it even possible to build an inner driving force that leads to a meaningful life? Do you run the risk of living a life contrary to your true calling, your ikigai?
What if you are unsure of what makes you passionate? Are you lost, never to live a fulfilling life?
Not knowing your passion is more common than most people care to admit. Many of us at one point or another are unsure about what we want to do with our lives. Sometimes we think we know. Sometimes we are certain. But for many, somehow, somewhere their plans never take form and they lose the excitement they once had if they ever had it at all. Needless to say, it is easy to get lost and not readily see a path before you.
Fret not. There is a path for you, but it may require doing something different or changing your habits. It may take time, determination and commitment, as no paths to finding ikigai are alike. Indeed, there are some methods that get to your calling faster than others. But, that same approach is not always suitable for everyone. Undoubtedly, for those whose intuition may not be so clear, a fair amount of self-reflection will help you find your talent and create new motivation.
Self-reflection builds confidence
Have you ever taken a close look at what skills and talents you have? What are you good at? Are you confident in your ability to perform certain tasks? Do you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie?
It just so happens, that believing in yourself is a key factor to consider in your self-assessment. It can either be a catalyst that propels you forward or a sticking point that inhibits your progress.
Now, believing in yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you are good at something. It means that you know yourself, as well as the level at which you operate. Having a clear understanding of what your boundaries are, gives you confidence in what you are doing and direction on where to improve.
Of course, evaluating yourself on that level can be extremely difficult and even daunting at times. After all, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. There are a few questions, however, which we’ll cover below that will get the ball rolling for you. But before that, there is one thing we should tackle at the start.
Self-reflection, not comparison
Self-reflection is not a competition. Too often we define our own passions and talents by comparing them to our peers. We fall into the trap of thinking that they are somehow better, smarter, more talented, more creative, more experienced, more this – that and the other thing than we are.
What nonsense! Eliminate such thinking quickly. Understand that you are not them and they are not you. By eliminating what is not you, you allow yourself the opportunity to be yourself without the baggage of others. You can truly start focusing your own efforts.
Furthermore, let me tell you this, it is only an illusion created solely in your mind anyway. The thought that somehow you are not good enough to do a certain task or not good enough to learn, is just a simple foolish.
If you find yourself down such a path, turn around. Realize this simple fact; everyone is a beginner at one time or another. You don’t have to be an expert in something or even be good at it in order to find your ikigai. It could very well be that the path you take from here will require new talents, in which case you may have some studying and practicing ahead of you.
Questions for self-reflection
You can assess certain skills with test scores, diplomas, certificates of sorts, and other measures. In such cases it is not difficult to definitively say that you are good at any given talent. However, in the absence of such specific qualifications, you have to make a more qualitative assessment. And that is much more challenging. You should therefore rely on your experience, personal taste, confidence, and beliefs.
So with that being said, let’s take a look at some unique questions that help you begin self-reflection in the right direction and uncover your passion through your talents. These questions can be answered definitively, but they are really only meant to get you thinking about yourself.
What can you do blindfolded?
Okay, not literally blindfolded, but what skills come naturally to you? What tasks can you perform without much hesitation? Are you more apt to soft skills such as communicating with people, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, work ethic, etc? Or are you more talented with hard skills such as engineering, programming, fashion design, graphic design, finance, accounting, writing, and so on?
Each one of these skills can be put to practical use to build your ikigai. For example, you might find passion in building new relationships, indulging in a pastime or hobby, finding new interests in new topics, or even digging deeper into something in particular. Also with each of these skills, you can branch-off into related disciplines and subject matters. Surely, if you have an interest in a skill that you have not yet developed yet, you could begin that journey, too.
Indeed, all of your skills are valuable assets and should be continually nurtured as you grow. Even if you are just starting out. Be persistent. You will get to where you want to be with time and effort.
How do you rate your skills?
Consider your skills, both soft and hard, and on a scale from 1-10, rate them. But, before you settle on the rating, ask yourself, “Why not one rank lower?” What sets your rank apart from a lower one?
Oftentimes when people engage in self-reflection, they often take a humble approach. People also tend to be too critical or hard on themselves. Think about the last time someone showed you what they were working on. Perhaps they prefaced the display with a disclaimer like, “I’m still working on it,” or “It’s a work in progress.” It may very well be that we are programmed that way.
Just understand that having a skill and feeling like you are a master in that skill are two different things. Give yourself some credit. It is always more motivating to realize that you are better than you think rather than staying humble. By looking at your skills in this way, your self-reflection is more accurate. You will know just how skilled you are. Hopefully, you can also identify the areas in which you need to grow. Before too long you will indeed find more confidence in what you are doing.
What does your boss think you are good at?
Sometimes you can get a glimpse of your talents through the eyes of others, especially if they are trained to evaluate you in a specific area. This is the age-old concept of a master and an apprentice. And in today’s world, the best substitute could be your boss or supervisor.
Your superior may be in a position to see things differently. If you can tap into such insight, it may be worthwhile to have such a conversation about your talents. Providing of course that you have a healthy relationship with them and respect and value their opinion.
There may be areas in which you feel confident in and others in which you have low self-esteem. A person who can not only point these areas out to you but also provide you with some advice for improving can motivate you, albeit it may be work-related. And that is okay.
Your ikigai may be related to the work you do. Don’t make the mistake that you need to love your job in order to love what you do. Many people love the work but hate the job.
Are you the “go-to” person?
Do some know you for a specific trait or skill in particular? Perhaps you have a talent that no one in your immediate surroundings has. And for that reason, people seek you out.
For example, perhaps you have the uncanny ability to say it straight in a way that doesn’t offend. Maybe you are the most knowledgeable person that everyone turns to when they have a question on the topic. You may be the centerpiece who is there when your family or friends need emotional support.
Taking care of yourself and your loved ones is an ikigai many of us share. Such a purpose can stand on its own or be intertwined between other passions in life. Take pride in being there for those people. It is a talent not everyone shares. Make an effort to be there more often.
Time to self-reflect to find your ikigai
Indeed, for some people, ikigai comes naturally. They seemingly know what they want to do in their lives. But, for many, the journey is a bit different.
It is easy to understand why people use self-reflection as a tool to find their ikigai. It is a process designed to help you understand your own thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, etc. And although self-reflection is a subjective analysis of who you are as a person, you can also use it in an objective way by turning your thoughts towards your skills and talents.
People often realize their skills and talents first and that leads to passion and purpose in life. Take some time to self-reflect on the talents you have. You may find that because of your abilities your ikigai lies within enhancing the life you live or even helping others to do so. Give yourself permission to be a beginner if you want to learn something new. And know that if you apply yourself and commit yourself to persistently improve your skills, nothing is out of reach. Start your journey now.