“Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.”
Hector Garcia Puigcerver: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
We continue our exploration of the path to find the meaning of our lives, our Raison De’tre, through the practice of Ikigai. Last week we had looked at the 5 Blue Zones, the five spots in the world where the people have the highest life expectancy. The habits and lifestyles of these people, including food habits, are worth emulating, and we discussed that last week. We had also connected the basic tenets of Ikigai with the 5 Blue Zones the previous week and worked out a few basics which are bound to give us happiness and peace. I will urge you to read the last post before continuing ahead for the sake of continuity. The process of Ikigai could be depicted by the diagram below- have a look. The diagram is relatively self-explanatory, and I will request to spend a couple of minutes internalizing it for we will hereafter discuss the nuances of each sphere and its cross-section with others.
We all have heard of and probably experienced the Monday Morning Blues– that dreadful feeling on Monday morning when you wake up to realize that you need to go to work. Why does it happen? After all, it’s our work through the weekdays which gives us money to sustain ourselves while the fun and games of the weekends take money out of our pockets (most of the time. Why should we hate or detest something which we are doing 70-75% of the time in our working lives and long to do something which we only do for the rest of 20-25% of the time? A short answer is that we are not enjoying what we are doing for our living. A corollary is that we are doing something that we dislike just to make ends meet, but why did we reach this state?
Most of us make our career choices very early in life- I made mine when I was around 18 and was in the Indian Military Academy at 19 years of age. Are we really capable of making a decision, with which we have to stick with for the next three to four decades, at the young age of 18 or 19? If you need to make a career-defining choice today, would you consult an 18 or 40 years old person? While the decision was taken at a young age could end up being the correct decision for us but at least 50% of the time, it may not be so. It means that around 50% of the working population is in jobs that are not really to their liking. They got into the position when they were too young and realized later on that they were a misfit there. Now, out of the fear that they might be left high and dry if they switch jobs, they continue in their current profession. For this variety of people, Monday Morning Blues is not unsurprising. How sad to keep doing something just because you took the decision when you were too young and now find yourself with no other skill set which can assist you in switching jobs.
Let us take a variation in this situation. You joined a profession with all the conviction and worked really hard to improve yourself but soon found yourself sidelined in the hierarchy of the organization. You are understandably demotivated and suffer from not only Monday Morning Blue but Monday through Friday Morning Blues. What went wrong? Many of us take pride in claiming that we have say, 20 years of experience in our jobs but in reality, have one year experience twenty times over. At some stage of our career, we stagnate in professional growth and become deadwood to the organization. The result is our supersession and being sidelined to the margins. The bottom line is that we need to keep growing in our profession to add value to the organization, or else we become redundant soon.
We all have some innate strengths and preferences which, to a large extent, are defined by our genetic pool. Our genes also influence our personalities which in turn hugely influence our predisposition to do a job or take up a particular profession. We are likely to find happiness and success in a job that is aligned with our essential personality traits. It is debatable whether Roger Federer would have been a successful musician or Kishore Kumar, a world-class author. In fact, it is doubtful if Federer would have succeeded in any other sport than Tennis. Let me hasten to add that our environment, right from our birth, also plays a significant role in evolving our distinct personality traits.
There is a theory called the “Big Five or Five-Factor Model” which states that our basic personality boils down to five core factors, defined by the acronym OCEAN. A person’s character is an amalgamation of OCEAN factors and is a continuum.
- O- Openness to Experiment. Is the person willing to go out of his/her comfort zone and innovate? Does the person prefer routine and repetitive jobs or revels in an environment of ambiguity? A person scoring high on this count is likely to succeed in a creative and innovative field.
- C- Conscientiousness. Is the person generally organized in his/her thoughts and behavior or lacks direction (an extreme case)? Does the person go into minute details and is disciplined to finish a task within the laid-down time/parameters? Will the person take decisions based on well-laid down matrices or be impulsive and loathe to follow the chain-of-command? A person scoring high on this factor is unlikely to be a great entrepreneur or innovator but may excel in research-oriented or repetitive nature jobs.
- E- Extraversion or being extrovert. How actively and cheerfully the person seeks interaction with others? Is he/she comfortable in social settings involving strangers? Do they feel energized in situations where a team is involved, or they are lone-rangers? Do they prefer to chat and discuss or are pensive and reflective? A person scoring low on this factor is likely to succeed in research-oriented fields or creative fields like writing or painting.
- A- Agreeableness. Does the person have a high social and emotional quotient and get along with the team? Is he/she the kind of person who speaks his/her mind in a brusque manner without bothering about the sensitivities of others? Do people consider them trustworthy, reliable, and altruistic? A person ranking low on this factor is unlikely to succeed in an endeavor requiring team effort but may excel in an individualistic task, profession, or sport.
- N- Neuroticism. Is the person emotionally stable so far as his/her worldview of the others is concerned? Does he/she consider something adverse to a threat or an opportunity? Is the person prone to mood swings and anxiety attacks or remains equanimous irrespective of the prevailing situation? Is the person too self-conscious and vulnerable or confident about his strengths and weaknesses? A person scoring high on this factor will turn out to be a poor or indeed a toxic leader.To sum up, this part of the discussion on Ikigai, about our professional lives, a few conclusions could be drawn.We are bound to be successful in a profession that is aligned to our Prakriti or fundamental nature. More often than not, we end up choosing a career when we are way too young to fathom the ramifications of the selected job on our Wheel of Life. Remember, that the profession is one of the six spokes of the Wheel of Life and it better be congruent to our overall life aspirations. Even when we chose a career, we at times stagnate due to either the work-environment not being conducive to professional growth or due to our lack of requisite effort towards self-development. At no point in time, should our profession become a burden to us, a mere means to earn our livelihood? The Monday Morning Blues (MMB) must change to Monday Morning Excitement (MME) which should drive us to work in anticipation of a professionally satisfying and fulfilling week.
Many a time people realize that they are in the wrong profession or relationship but don’t move on due to the fear of the unknown or because it looks like too much of an effort or they simply get used to it. Additional effort towards an alternative is liable to give rich dividends, provided we are persistent. There is this parable about two men who had to cross a river which was in spate. Both were decent swimmers, and the possibility of crossing the river by swimming existed. One of the men suggested spending some time and make a boat as all the material for a boat was readily available. The other man considered making the boat too much of an effort which also required a fair amount of time. He decided to swim across and jumped into the river but realized that the water current was too strong. By the time he decided to turn back, he had run out of strength and drowned midstream. The first man patiently spent a few hours creating a makeshift boat and safely crossed the river.
What may initially appear daunting may actually turn out to be your calling if you are willing to give the change a chance. Dinosaurs, the mighty beasts, got wiped out from the face of the earth because they failed to reinvent themselves amidst the constantly changing surroundings. We need to evolve and grow all the time- we are not Dinosaurs who were not blessed with a superior brain as we humans do. It is better to keep working towards acquiring at least one more skillset other than what is required for your current job. It will not happen in a few months or even years but remember, slow and steady wins a race. With the wonderful online courses nowadays, you can easily pick up a new skill within a very short time. Never run out of options in life- never.
We wrap up this part of “finding our Ikigai” and will continue our further quest next week. Do meditate over this post and look at your profession through the prism of the Five-Factor Model- the hue should remain a cheerful bright MME and not dull and drab MMB.
I am eagerly looking forward to your feedback on my books, “The Millionaire Mechanic” and “Musings of a Financially Illiterate Father”.
Musings of a (Financially) Illiterate Father: A Common Investor’s Guide to Wealth Creation and retention
The Millionaire Mechanic: Financial Wisdom in the Rann –