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Ikigai: The Power of Purpose

There's a difference between the things that are important in your life and your life’s work.

What’s your purpose? Why do you get up in the morning? What is it that you hope to accomplish?

Having clarity about the answers to the above greatly enables us to live our best lives. Yet it all starts with an essential, probing question, reflection thereon and honest, candid responses.

Lest you think this is a tad to touchy-feely, understand. as advisors, we’re in the business of guiding those we serve to engage in thoughtful reflection followed by purposeful action, so it behooves us both to practice what we preach as well as to become excellent at navigating this process in order to enhance the contributions that we can make to the lives of those we serve.

The Japanese have a concept called Ikigai, which, roughly translated, equates to one’s “reason for being.”

With this in mind, committed as we are to being excellent and caring guides as well as utilizing the dawn of the new year as an opportunity to review, update and enhance our own and our businesses’ purposes and plans, let’s consider several ways that the exploration of our individual and collective Ikigai can help us fulfill this cardinal commitment.

It's important to notes that Ikigai is less about identifying your ultimate goals than it is, fundamentally, about delineating the way that you live.

For example, though you may be passionate about providing financial guidance to external clients and professional guidance to internal ones, remember that your advisory work is the means to your ultimate end of service. Or, as serial entrepreneur Chris Myers has described this important dichotomy, being an advisor is “the medium through which you can express that passion.” In other words, “there is a difference between the things that are important in your life and your life’s work.”

Yes, we are goal-oriented in both life and in our chosen profession, but, ultimately, we should be focused on the way that we live, a subset of which is how we work. In this way, according to Mr. Myers, we can “live a life of consequence, and still use business as a medium of expression.”

How different would your life be if, every day, you awoke fired up about the opportunity to pursue your unique, contributory vision of it? What if you felt like you were living in alignment with what you were put on this earth to do in virtually every single moment? How fantastic a life would this be, both personally and professionally? This is what Ikigai is all about: having this clarity and living into it in every moment (as much as possible).

Now translate this into the professional realm: How different would your advisory life be if, every day, you were fired up and fully focused on pursuing your unique, contributory vision of service? What if you conducted yourself in such a way that, in every client interaction either internal or external, you felt like you were living in alignment with what you were put on this earth to do? And, as an extension of this, what if one of the greatest contributions that you make to the lives of those you serve is to help them develop the answers to these questions and then live into them as well?

By contrast, imagine clients living their best lives because of their confidence in the direction that you’ve helped them to identify and choose as well as in the plan that you’ve helped them develop to achieve it.

Imagine colleagues living their best lives because of their confidence in the direction of the firm and how you’ve helped them to identify their role in this mission as well as how to leverage it to maximize their contributions to those they serve.

Imagine all of the members of your organization being so aligned and committed that they can work through the inevitable challenges that accompany every effort to grow and contribute as well as feeling both free and encouraged to bring their whole selves to work so that they can maximize their own contributions to this collective endeavor.

Imagine your firm, its people and its clients on fire for life because of the clarity of vision that you help them to develop as well as the prudence and thoughtfulness of the planning that you do together to achieve it.

Not so touchy-feely now, is it? Sounds like meaningful work that’s both highly profitable and holistically fulfulling as well.


Walter K. Booker is the chief operating officer of MarketCounsel, a business and regulatory compliance consultancy for investment advisors.

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