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Deep Thoughts

The power of purpose

So, tell me, why do you rise in the morning? 

What a deep and personal question to start us off – how often do you ask this ? I imagine not too often.

It’s not a trick question, think about it for a moment…

And don’t just say “because I need to earn money to stay alive” – we all need that, but that’s not why we get up.

Struggling to find the answer? Don’t worry most of us do!

Meaning is an important thing right? It’s not something many of us probably tend to reflect on often. We are so wrapped up in our own world that it can be difficult to see what we are doing it all for. 

Of course, reflecting on thoughts like this can be scary as shit so I understand why so many divert from doing this.

But nonetheless, we all want meaning, we all want to feel like we are doing something or working towards something at least.

So, we know that we are all looking for meaning. But how do we find it? Do we embark on a meditation spree to wait for the mind to have a eureka moment? Or is it like catching a wild Pokémon, where we run around urban areas with our phones out shouting “it’s over there!”?

Sadly the answer to both of those is no.

However, I have a potential solution. Many moons ago, I was introduced to a beautiful Japanese concept called Ikigai.

Essentially Ikigai translates to ‘a reason for being’ in English. It’s not a new concept, it has long existed in Japan and is more recently getting exposure in the western world as more of us seek meaning in our lives.

Ikigai(pronounced ee-key-guy) is made of two Japanese words: iki, which means “life” and Kai, which has a number of meanings but for the purpose of this word it translates to, “meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.” Put together “a reason for living”.

In the culture of Okinawa, (a small Japanese island where Ikigai is believed to have its origins) Ikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning” – a reason to enjoy life.

We can sum up what the concept of Ikigai challenges us with in the image below.

The concept is to ask yourself these 4 questions, which I think are very realistic.

  • What do I love?
  • What am I good at?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can I be paid for?

Essentially, getting the answers to these create your ikigai – basically the sweet spot of your purpose.

Happiness is not a destination 

I have a somewhat unpopular opinion (you’ve probably discovered by now, if you’ve been reading my work for some time. that I have a few of these) that chasing happiness is stupid.

But why?

Despite what the click bait articles and the social media charlatans will have you believe, happiness is not a destination you arrive at and then experience eternally at all times.

Happiness is an emotion, a state of mind and like all emotions it is fleeting. 

But this is not a bad thing, I mean if we were happy all the time, life would be a bit boring, right?

Struggle is necessary, and through struggle we can appreciate moments of stillness and happiness.

It’s a pretty well documented topic of thought that many of us believe if we get this car, that job, x amount of Instagram followers, that salary increase and so on, that we will suddenly find happiness.

Sadly this is not true.

What tends to happen is that we feel no different when we get these things. We generally experience a uplift in mood but this is very short term and then we revert back to a state of mind of what’s next and maybe if i had this, then I’ll feel happy.

And the cycle repeats…

This is where I’m going to offer an alternative methodology to happiness and the first thing you need to do, is to stop chasing happiness. 

Yes, you read that right, stop chasing happiness. Now I know that’s not what all the self help gurus will tell you, but hear me out.

We spend so much of our lives trying to attain the feeling of happiness, it’s like crack and we want it, all the time. 

The problem lies in that no matter what we seem to do or what new goal we tell ourselves we’ll find happiness in once we’ve completed it, it never seems to come – well not for a sustained time anyway.

This can become a vicious cycle where we tell ourselves that we need more and will feel happier once we’ve done the next thing. 

But then quite quickly we realise the next thing didn’t do it either and then it becomes the next thing, the thing after that and that, and so on the cycle goes.

You can read more about breaking this cycle here.

Putting purpose at the core 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, purpose is super important.

It drives our happiness, general wellbeing and ability to perform to a high level. So, it’s essential for us as individuals to discover our own and for organisations to be more purpose driven or perhaps focused too.

Here’s some data from a feature at McKinsey ⬇️ 

And even more from the folks at Ernst & Young.

This one focuses on what having purpose as a business does for performance and profits:

So, the best thing we can do for ourselves and each other is have a clear purpose. Figure out the answer to our deep philosophical question of why you rise every morning.

It’s gotta be more than just the money!

People with purpose are generally happier, healthier and perform better in their careers.

Isn’t it time we recognised that putting purpose at the heart of what we do can be the ultimate driver and performance enhancer?


Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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