A man in Okinawa, Japan, once said
“I contribute to the world. The art I’ve created will remain for hundreds of years after I pass away. This is my ikigai. I am blessed.”
And then, the man takes out a musical instrument from a box under a shelf in his house and starts to play it.
Dan Buettner: “There’s this concept in Okinawa called ikigai, and I believe it’s one of the most powerful factors contributing to their longevity.”
According to the Japanese, ikigai is a kind of mission, a sense of purpose. They also believe that it could be the main factor in the spiritual health of those living beyond the age of 100.
Dan moves on to say, “They’re keeping their minds engaged. They’re keeping their bodies moving. They could sum up their life meaning, the reason for which they wake up in the morning. They’re told constantly that, ‘you count, we need you’. People imbued with this constant sense of purpose, they know their values, and it makes those day-to-day decisions very easy because you know your core.”
If you don’t already know, Dan Buettner is an American National Geographic Fellow and New York Times-bestselling author. He is so many things put into one, from being an explorer to an educator, a best-selling author, producer, storyteller, and public speaker.
On his quest to find out how a few select people who have still been alive for more than a century, he found some interesting facts. He wanted to find out the success of their longevity. And what he found at first was the factor associated with longevity was having a purpose. Not just a purpose but the concept of sharing joy and laughter with a community.
“Unknown purpose always wastes time and gives the possibility of danger.”
Let us first stop for a moment and gather our thoughts on what it means to have a true purpose in life. Having a true purpose is what will fuel your energy to wake up fresh in the morning. If you’re waking up tired and unwilling to let the sun shine through your window, it’s probably because you aren’t looking forward to the day. This may also mean that your purpose is still not yet clear to you.
As a leader, not having a true purpose is a setback and a danger to your growth and to those you lead. Simply, leading an organization is not enough to be termed as a purpose. A purpose is what fuels your will to keep going with the gusto you need to live life. It is what completes you, hence completing the circle, making you Purna or Whole.
Most often, when the circle is broken due to self-doubt and lack of true purpose, one begins to second-guess their own decisions in life. Many times, this happens during their mid-career, that is, between the ages of 35 to 45.
And this is what leaders experience as a Midlife crisis. They start to question their sense of incompleteness, which leads them to ask:
· “What am I doing with my life?”
· “Is this all that my life is about?”
· “Where is my career headed?”
· “Do any of my achievements mean anything?”
· “Why can’t I find any satisfaction in what I do anymore?”
· “If only I had made the right decisions back then.”
· “What if my career decisions have been faulty all along?”
These questions stem from feeling incomplete, that is, like a broken circle. And this broken circle leads one to feel sad, anxious, resentful, and depressed. As a result, you do not feel Purna or Complete, because there is no defined purpose. And this purpose cannot be defined by anyone else but you.
So, to complete the circle, it is important to find your true sense of purpose.
Your Spiritual Quotient (SiQ) can help you do this by guiding you on the path to self-awareness. Knowing who and what you are can help you develop an absolute definition of your purpose.
Dan Buettner: “I believe it’s not by trying to prevent death. It’s by learning how to live.”
With appropriate career mentoring and guidance on enhancing your SiQ, a leader can work toward mending the broken circle of a midlife crisis. As a Legacy Creator, Career Mentor, and Leadership Coach, I’ve met with many leaders in their mid-crisis phase. By working together with them to improve their SiQ and mentor them for their career as leaders, they’ve successfully found their sense of true purpose, their ikigai.
It is as Mary Anne Perrone once wrote on Christmas at Midlife
I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.
I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.