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Feeling drained at work? A simple exercise to reinvigorate your professional purpose

Navigating the world of work in 21st century can feel overwhelming: it's rapidly transforming as technology drives change across industries.

Businesses have shorter life-spans, skills and knowledge have shorter shelf-life, and automation is quickly creeping. In this uncertain and volatile context, many people hold on tight to the stability of a secure job – even if they feel uninspired and lack meaning in their career.

But change also brings opportunity. Even though it can feel overwhelming, the “digital age” we live in is abundant with potential for professional development. New types of jobs and industries are constantly emerging, new skills are in high demand, and it’s never been easier for entrepreneurs to build their own businesses and initiatives.

Change brings opportunity, but you must dare to seize it

So, How engaged do you feel at work? If the answer is “not very” or somewhere in that general category, you’re not alone. A growing body of research tells us that an increasing number of people are unsatisfied in their careers. It’s even been called an “epidemic.”

The signs of this are recognizable: questioning the impact of the work you do; feeling misaligned with the mission or values of your organization; feeling limited control over what you work on or how you do it; lacking opportunities for career development; and feeling that you have way more potential than what is being utilized.

If you relate to these symptoms of career dissatisfaction and know that you have more potential to unlock, what is holding you back from taking a bold step?

At Hyper Island, working with students and professionals across many industries, around the world, we see that the biggest hindering force is often fear: fear of the uncertain, fear of risk, fear of being vulnerable. To step outside of what feels safe and secure, into a situation that feels risky and uncertain is something humans are naturally averse to. But we also know that sometimes we must take bold steps outside our comfort zone in order to realize our full potential.

A simple exercise to reinvigorate your purpose

One thing we see time and time again is that a key element of professional satisfaction is a strong sense of purpose. A strong, grounded purpose brings motivation in daily work, helps guide important choices and strengthens resolve when tackling challenges. It helps us dare to take the bold steps we might not otherwise take in professional life.

There’s a wonderful japanese concept called ikigai, which means “reason for being.” Your ikigai is the intersection of four things: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.

When applied as an personal reflection exercise,  the ikigai idea is a powerful way to explore your professional purpose. If you’ve never considered your individual purpose or if you feel you could benefit from reinvigorating it, try the following:  

  1. Take 30-60 minutes to reflect alone, with a notebook and a pen
  2. Sketch the Ikigai diagram and label each circle. Spend 5-10 minutes on each of the four circles, reflecting on and writing down the strongest ideas that come to mind for each question
  3. After making notes for each circle, try to write a single sentence that expresses your ikigai: the intersection of the four areas. It doesn’t have to be concise, grammatical or polished!
  4. Reflect on what you’ve written. Share it with someone close to you. Consider how closely aligned it is with your professional life today.
  5. Finally, if you discover that there is misalignment between your ikigai and your current work life, challenge yourself to take one small bold step right away. Think about what you can actually do today to begin to move just a little bit closer your sense of purpose.

Take it further

An exercise like this is just one example of the ideas, exercises and tools that we use at Hyper Island to help individuals unlock progress in their professional development. If you’re curious to discover more about our programs and tools for personal and professional development, feel free to get in touch. We’ll be happy to chat with you.

Join a new online career development course

We’re launching a new interactive online course for anyone feeling stuck in your career, searching for a new job or looking to reinvent their current one. You’ll get the tools, support and courage to take the next bold step in your professional journey.

JOIN A CAREER DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP

About the Author Alex Neuman is Head of Learning Design at Hyper Island.

Alex is a lifelong educator who strives to design and facilitate learning experiences that unlock human potential in individuals, teams and organizations. Alex is a lead author of the Hyper Island Toolbox and currently focuses on developing transformative online courses.

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