The Japanese call it "ikigai", which loosely translates as a reason for being or getting up in the morning. It encompasses what you love, what you are good at, and what the world needs. It cannot be measured by anyone else; It's what is worthy to you and you alone. Oprah called it when she said; 'speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have'.
In his TED talk ,'How To Live To Be 100', Dan Buettner attributes the long life of Okinawans in part to the fact that people have a meaning or life purpose through their ikigai. Whether you call it ikigai, raison d'etre, your truth or your life purpose--the big question is how do you link it with business or what you get paid for and be happy at work. As a business owner I know how strongly happiness at work impacts employee productivity.
A great example of bringing Ikigai into a business is John's Crazy Socks, where they are 'on a mission to spread happiness through socks' --they have Valentine socks, St. Patrick's Day socks, Donald Trump socks and "I love my job" socks. The co-founder has Down Syndrome and uses his business to raise awareness for Down Syndrome and other conditions like autism and breast cancer.
When I wanted to make sure our team all understood my company's ikigai, I decided to hold a visioning day in our head office. I was inspired by our friends at Facebook who told us about how they hold company visioning days every year where each Facebook employee shares their own personal vision for both work and life.
Carolyn Everson, Facebook's vice president of global marketing solutions, explained the company's visioning process to Thrive Global. She said the practice has been "a game-changer for me, and for many people on our team at Facebook. The sense of clarity and purpose has freed up time spent moving fast in a million directions, enabling me to focus on what is most important in my life."
How I unleashed ikigai in my business.
As CEO, I kicked off by defining our ikigai as a company. For instance, we define what we love as having a positive impact on organizations, leaders and all employees; bringing science to the workplace, and having fun making our clients great.
Then I invited each of the team to share their own ikigai and how they could use it contribute to the company. I loved that people shared such rich information about themselves like one of our organizational psychologist's love of the ocean or how our marketing manager is good at staying calm in a crisis. Then people worked in pairs around how they most wanted to connect what they love and what they are good at with the business ikigai.
By having such a rich and meaningful conversation about what we loved, were good at and thought the world needed, the team got a deeper understanding of each other and what we all have to contribute to the company.
Whether you are running a multinational corporation or one-woman show, knowing and sharing your ikigai, life purpose or personal visions can make you happier, more connected and more focused at work.