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Deep Thoughts

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Accepting that one does not know the answers to everything is hard to admit for any of us. Not only is it hard, but it’s also downright frustrating when you spend every waking minute procrastinating on the thought itself.

Career decisions can be fickle and are almost certainly full of emotions.

We’ll reach many moments in our lifetime where we ask “did I do the right thing?”, “Should I go here, there or stay right here?”

The beauty of life is that we are always presented with choices and it is in those choices that we’ll learn more about ourselves.

What an incredibly philosophical line that is! And I’ve not even had my white tea yet.

In my own work, it’s not uncommon to be looked at as some sort of career guru (which is 100% not true) as I work in the realm of education. This means I’m frequently asked the question “What do you think I should do next for my career?” and I always hesitate to answer this.

Why? Because I am not you and you are not me. We live different lives with different points of views and ambitions. I, for the most part, know just as much as you or even less in this scenario.

However, what I can offer is a set of ideas, tools and frameworks that I’ve used in my own journey to explore the answer to “What should I do next?” and “How can I navigate this challenge?”.

All of these things can be used in the context of career development which I’m kind of linking this to.

Yet, you can also adapt these to a variety of situations you face in life as they all have useful components to navigate the everyday challenges that are thrown our way.

Check these out, let me know what you think and please do share your own with me by hitting reply above or find me on LinkedIn.

Ikigai

Let me introduce you 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.

How it works

The Ikigai philosophy encourages us to reflect on 4 questions:

  1. What do I love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can I be paid for?

The goal here is to find our sweet spot of purpose aka our Ikigai.

You can learn more about this philosophy here ⬅️

The Career Hack

This was a framework I picked up from an ex-corporate director over the past 10 years and have often shared to this day.

How does it work?

This philosophy focused on two areas:

  1. Identifying a place where your talents are best suited.
  2. how to build the skills for that world.

In a nutshell, it’s about having an honest conversation with yourself to find the right place for you. Once you have nailed this, you can focus on the skills you need and make them world-class.

If you want to develop world-class skills, you need to understand where your talents are best placed.

To make this simple, use these 3 questions 💬

  1. What am I great at and why?
  2. What do I enjoy and why?
  3. Where is that combination most valued?

Use the above to understand what you really want and how your skills can be put to good use.

This will take some deep thought and reflection, but your answers will help shape your plan going forward. Don’t fool yourself with what you think you should be great at or what you should enjoy, carry out an honest examination to discover what the real answers are.

The 5 Whys

Another tool from the land of the rising sun (aka Japan) features on this list.

This one stems from lean management principles of the last 30 years and aims to get to the root cause of your problems, careers or otherwise.

Origin of the 5 Whys

The following is from Kabanize.com.

The 5 Whys method is part of the Toyota Production System. Developed by Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor and industrialist, the technique became an integral part of the Lean philosophy.

“The basis of Toyota’s scientific approach is to ask why five times whenever we find a problem … By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.“

Taiichi Ohno

One of the key factors for successful implementation of the technique is to make an informed decision. This means that the decision-making process should be based on an insightful understanding of what is actually happening on the work floor.

In other words, the root cause analysis process should include people with practical experience. Logically, they can give you the most valuable information regarding any problem that appears in their area of expertise.

5 Whys Analysis in Action

When applying the 5 Whys technique, you want to get to the problem’s essence and then fix it. Actually, the 5 Whys may show you that the source of the problem is quite unexpected.

Often, issues that are considered technical problems actually turn out to be human and process problems.

This is why finding and eliminating the root cause is crucial if you want to avoid iteration of failures.

(Credit: Kabanize: 5 Whys Analysis Tool)

You can learn more about the 5 Whys methodology over at Kabanize, where the above content was originally curated.

Medicine for the Monkey Mind

Here’s a little framework I use to drag myself out of those moments of confusion, frustration and feeling completely lost.

Grab a notebook, piece of paper or fire up a word doc and ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What is it you fear?
  2. List 3 things you’re grateful for today
  3. How can I reframe my mind?
  4. What am I looking forward to?

Block out the distractions, commit time to focus and explore your answers.

In my experience, I have found facing my own thoughts with these questions to be of great benefit in finding the cause of what’s causing me such distress.

Perhaps, they can help you too.

Get a free template for the journal of your own thoughts with these 4 questions here ⬅️.


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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