We all face existential crises in life. It comes with the territory of being a human; the ups inevitably come with the downs. Life is as much about these emotional roller coasters as it is about smooth sailing.
If this past year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of knowing who we are—in the face of adversity, or perhaps because of it. There’s a bit of a chicken and the egg at play here for many of us: to find ourselves, we must lose ourselves. And vice versa.
The irony about living through the pandemic is that while we had to wear physical masks for protection, we increasingly stripped ourselves of the proverbial ones we often hide behind. As a result, we saw an increased willingness to be more vulnerable, empathetic, and deliberate about owning our truths.
One of those prevailing truths? The bulk of the American job force is dissatisfied.
That’s been the case for years. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report, only one-third of 100 million full-time employees in the U.S. were engaged at work. Fifty-one percent were checked out, and 16% of employees were, to be frank, miserable.
Fast forward to now. As people lost their jobs in record numbers, newly unemployed Americans had to pursue alternative roles, many to find purpose along with a paycheck.
For me, that meant going from DIY to DI-WHY. Over the last decade, I built Brit + Co as a hub for women to collectively find their creative compass. When the pandemic came into play, I found new meaning in helping those same women go deeper. This translated to inspiring them to create and educating them on how to monetize their passions by way of a program that marries entrepreneurship with empowerment.
At the center of this journey was Ikigai.
Ikigai is the Japanese concept of “reason for being.” This philosophy distills four aspects of life into a framework: passion, vocation, profession, and mission. What do you love? What are you good at? What can you be paid for? What does the world need?
It’s in finding the overlaps that you can isolate your most authentic self. For me, that authenticity was found through taking inventory. I investigated the things that light me up and found that curiosity and creativity reign.
From a young age, I was a problem solver and maker at heart, whether or not I identified as such. If I saw a problem, I diagnosed it and conceived artful solutions. In my youth, this presented in how I approached my free time: always crafting, learning, and sharing. As an adult, this spirit continues to be the lifeblood of my offerings.
Before starting my own companies, I built a career in tech, working for Google and Apple. When I decided to take the leap and launch something of my own, my first instinct was to take on the world of apps. My background lent itself well to this, and I was eager to respond to the evolving connected climate with my technological solutions. It was the “right” thing to do in my head. Starting with building Brit + Co wasn’t initially the plan; it was a happy accident.
When you identify your Ikigai, work no longer feels like work. You’re in your zone and aligning what the world needs with what you are uniquely qualified to give it. You show up every day fired up because you’re living in your truth.
If you’re in search of finding your own why, meditate on these questions and start with a little bit of time travel:
• What did you want to be as a child?
• How did you spend your free time?
• What did your friends and family say you were good at?
• What obstacles did you face?
Now back to the future. How does the adult version of you stack up against your childhood self? Ask yourself these same questions, and identify the patterns you see.
If you asked a young Brit what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have rattled off the following occupations with no hesitation: writer, television persona, and inventor. What did all of those things have in common? They were all vehicles for creating something out of nothing. I was motivated by the desire to build new worlds and immerse people in them. Imagination drove me then, and it drives me now.
As you consider what’s underscoring your “why” for your next stage in life and work, dig deep on all personal and professional intersections. But don’t just stop at why. Use that as the sauce to define your “what,” explore your “how,” and make “now” the answer to “when.”
Brit Morin is Founder and CEO of Brit + Co, Founder of Selfmade, Founding Partner of Offline Ventures.