Optimist Performance

With the Christmas holiday season just around the corner and 2023 fast approaching, now is the time to start thinking about your goals for the new year. 

As a people-based business, we’ve looked at different approaches and the science behind setting goals. In previous articles, we’ve looked at how to change your habits to achieve your goals – establishing new habits and breaking the unhelpful ones.  We’ve also covered setting SMARTER goals and some of the questions you might ask yourself to reflect on where you are now and, looking to the future, where we can improve.

This month, we turn our attention East to the Japanese concept of ikigai and consider how we can use our own individual sense of purpose to influence and set our goals. Ikigai is a word with no direct translation to English; it roughly equates to “that which makes life worth living”, “reason for being”, or perhaps what gets you out of bed in the morning. 

Purpose is profoundly personal

Ikigai is concerned with a focus on a particular sphere of life, activity or social role which offers a real source of identity or meaning. It can be defined as something that truly makes life worth living for a particular individual. This could be aspects of social identity such as work or family or found within a sport or hobby.

Your Ikigai does not necessarily refer to your working life, nor does it need to be something grand or monumental. While one person’s Ikigai might be building a multi-million-pound business, another’s could be volunteering on a particular project or looking after their pet.

Your individual definition of success will be just as unique as you are.

Your goals will be interconnected

goalsIn previous articles, we’ve talked about siloed working within companies where departments fail to communicate with each other. Similarly, to ensure your goals are achievable, don’t fall into the trap of not considering your life as a whole when you start to define them. Writing in Forbes, the CEO of BodeTree Chris Myers, talks about Ikigai’s intersection of the spiritual with the physical, which connects all aspects of life. 

He explains: “There’s a difference between the things that are important in your life and your life’s work. Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfilment and balance in the daily routine of life.”

Myers warns against compartmentalising important aspects of our lives, such as our jobs, families, passions and desires.

Striking a balance between goals across different life areas is key.

Write your narrative to success

Writing your goals down and articulating what success in achieving them will look like is advocated in a paper on how Ikigai can optimise human performance and happiness by Prof Dr Michaela Schippers of the Erasmus Research Institute of Management.

Schippers cites the book ‘Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change’ by Timothy Wilson. He recommends describing the goals you set in “concrete rather than abstract terms” and describes how you can create a new life story by rewriting it, which can help you break free from self-defeating patterns of thinking. 

According to Wilson, writing a ”more optimistic story …will energise you to take action”.

Make your goals positive – and public

In her paper on Ikigai, Schippers describes a study where students were asked to reflect on their goals, which could be academic or non-academic, within their first term of university. They were then asked to commit to one overall goal, which was published, along with their photo, on the university’s website. 

The students were asked to frame these intentions as “I will” commitments. These included statements such as, “I will work as hard as possible to achieve my goals” and “I will sustain the world for future generations,” which were published alongside their name and photo.

Schippers’ study showed an increase of 22 per cent in academic performance compared to previous cohorts who had not taken part in the “I will” intervention and decreased drop-out rates.

Focus on random acts of kindness, along with your goals

Within Optimist Performance, we always talk about the importance of cultivating an ‘attitude to gratitude,’ not just during the season of goodwill, but all year round. According to Schippers’ paper on Ikigai, having an altruistic purpose in life may be particularly helpful for optimising happiness. 

Random acts of kindness were found to be particularly helpful to their benefactor. The study also found helping others, especially in socially engaged ways, was more beneficial to a person’s well-being than providing treats for themselves.

The Optimist View…

At Optimist Performance, we believe that we all can find our Ikigai and achieve that balance and success. However, you don’t need to do it alone, our Optimist Coaches can help you with it, they can support you in fulfilling your potential, clarify your goals and plan your route to success in 2023. 

Learn more about our Optimist coaching here or get in touch with us for a free touchpoint first call with one of our coaches.