Life as an Experiment

In the Part 3 of Between Two Therapists, Frank shared a particularly useful insight with me. He said he likes to view life, “as a series of experiments.”

Through his psychotherapy practice, Frank helps his clients design experiments in their lives to test our their deeply held beliefs and see if it shows up in reality. The experiments are opportunities for courage to step out of their regular habits and behaviours.

Of course, Frank makes sure the experiments aren’t beyond the capacity or readiness of his clients. They’re designed to be small experiments that slowly change the way his clients experience the world.

I love this concept because it’s exactly the way I want to view my life more as. When I view life as a series of experiments, I become less attached to the outcomes. I start to view life through the lens of childlike curiosity about what might happen if I do x, y, or z.

Of course, experiments should have parameters and should never be harmful to oneself or others. But there’s certainly more room in our lives to try experiments that bring more fun, creativity, and learning into our lives.

Leadership as a Path to Self Actualization

What if leadership was a path to self actualization?

I recently listened to a podcast episode of On Being with Krista Tippett and, guest, Jerry Colonna. Jerry is a former venture capitalist and a renowned executive coach. In this beautiful 1.5 hour conversation they talk about work, leadership, and self knowledge.

I was particularly inspired by how Jerry described leadership as a path to self actualization. I know, it sounds a bit grandiose, but I think it’s true. When we show up as leaders for ourselves and others our whole perspective shifts. We begin to take ownership of our own actions, we refuse victimhood when something happens out of our control, and we take care of others around us.

Jerry talks about how many of us carry the emotional baggage that we were handed in childhood and how many of us have never learned to deal with it. And that old workplace adage of “leave your emotions at the door” never actually works. We’re human and trying to hide from our traumas – whatever they look like for each of us – is a recipe for disaster.

So why not take this as an opportunity? What if we could use our workplaces as a place for learning and growth? After all, we spend over half of our lives in our workplaces. And to be clear, this isn’t about turning every conversation in the workplace into a therapy session. We’ve still got jobs to do and goals to achieve. But there’s probably some room for all of us to be deliberate in how we show up to become the type of person we want to be.

Living life through principles

Last week, I wrote a bit about James Clear’s idea about setting identity-based habits versus outcome-based habits in your life. If we can set habits that are better aligned with our identity, it’s more likely that it will be sustainable. Every desirable habit that you do casts a vote about the person you want to become. You begin to actually believe you can become that type of person.

I think there’s a supporting element to identity-based habits — your principles.

If habits are your day-to-day behaviours that are on autopilot, then what do we do when you have to stop and think about a decision we need to make? It could be a simple decision like “what do I eat for lunch?” or a complex one like “do I take this job or not?” Either way, it’s going to require some amount of decision-making to figure out what you want to do.

This is where principles come in. Life is complex but if we have guiding principles that are aligned with our identity, we might be able to make better, more consistent decisions. Much like an aligned habit will cast a vote of confidence, decisions that are aligned with your principles can further instill that confidence.

Principles don’t get developed overnight, of course. It can take years to craft out a set of principles that will help guide your decision-making. But it’s better to start thinking about them now.

The first principle

Richard Feynman was a prominent physicist known for his work in theoretical physics and quantum mechanics. Perhaps one of the smartest men in his generation, even he knew that we could become over confident in our own abilities and self perception. He’s famously quotes having said:

The First Principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.

It’s easy to think that when you achieve competency in something you know enough about that topic. It’s easy to let you ego take over and begin to protect your self image about how smart, how strong, how secure, etc. etc. you might be. While this might be comforting it’s a dangerous place to be.

Why? Because you stop learning. You start creating blindspots because you’re not absorbing new information coming in about yourself or the environment around you. You miss new opportunities that could take you to the next level.

Feynman kept The First Principle top of mind by constantly challenging himself in new endeavours totally unrelated to physics. He would learn how to draw, study biology, hike the Mayan pyramids, or investigate how dogs’ sense of smell worked. He lived a life of curiosity – ignoring what other people thought of him along the way.

We should always keep The First Principle in mind. Acknowledging that whether we’re just starting out or at the top of our field that we can always learn something.

Welcome to The Ikigai Project

Ikigai is a Japanese word for “the reason for being” or, put another way, the reason you wake up in the morning. When we live with Ikigai, we have clarity with our purpose and the contribution we want to make in the world.

I believe that crafting your ikigai is one of your most important tasks in life. When we live with ikigai, we have more energy and clarity to fulfill our goals. We have a sense of direction – a North Star – that helps keeps us moving forward despite the obstacles that might get in the way. We become less distracted by what others think of us and show up with the courage to make a difference.

I also believe that we craft our ikigai. It’s a deliberate, evolving process and requires active decision making. Your ikigai in your 20s might look very different from your ikigai in your 80s as you learn more about yourself and the world around you.

Very few people simply stumble into their life’s purpose by accident. We need to come face-to-face with our own fears, insecurities, doubts and not shy away from the life tasks we all face. As such, crafting your ikigai is ultimately about courage — the courage to accept yourself, trust in others, and contribute to something greater than yourself.

The goal of The Ikigai Project is to help people find the courage to pursue their ikigai. Through this blog and the podcast, we’ll unpack core principles and actions that will help you take that first step forward. This journey will shift your mindset and focus on making the hard changes that you’ll need to make.

Of course, there’s already a lot of great books, blogs, podcasts, and resources on the topic of “purpose”. So how will this project be different?

First, we’ll apply the principle of leverage. Instead of sharing a plethora of different tools and resources, I’m going to focus on a few specific themes and go deep with them. Quality over quantity will be the name of the game. If we focus on the right things, in the right order, the impact that we can create within our lives will be substantial.

Here’s an example of the power of leverage. If you were to line up a two-inch domino and double the size of the next domino and double the size of the next domino etc, etc, by domino #23 you’ll have reached the height of the Eiffel Tower, by domino #31 Mt. Everest, and by domino #57 you’ll almost be able to reach the moon. If we pick the right domino (priority) and leverage momentum, great things can happen over time.

Check out this blog post from The ONE Thing for an image of The Domino Effect.

Second, we’ll focus on mindset. We’ll use concepts from philosophy and modern psychology to better understand ourselves. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom from the ancient Greeks, Zen masters from Japan, and western psychotherapy that we can tap into. Specifically, we’ll borrow some of the key concepts developed by Alfred Adler to understand what it means to live in harmony with yourself and society.

Third, we’ll focus on deep practice. The easy part is reading a book or taking a course. The hard part is distilling the key insights and putting them into practice. We’ll use some of the best practices around habit building and behaviour change to give us the best chance of making sustainable change in our lives. The shape of what this will look like is TBD but you’ll be the first to find out when we start building something out.

Finally, you should also know that I’m an unashamed jack-of-all-trades with a curiosity about a wide range of topics. Specifically, I’m interested in understanding and learning more about behaviour change, the power of mindset, and the art of learning. Not to mention I also enjoy exploring topics around health & wellness, financial growth, and the latest tech tools to help us live better lives. As you can see, this project will take an interdisciplinary approach to uncover principles that we can all apply in our lives.

As a student of living with ikigai, I’m looking forward to approach this topic with a lot of curiosity and joy. I plan to apply many of the lessons and themes in my own life. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a bit intimidating at times, but in the end, it’ll be worth the journey. Thanks for being here.