Why do you get up in the morning?
27th April 2016
The Japanese have an expression, ikigai, which literally means “a reason for being” and is thought of as the "reason to get up in the morning".
Your ikigai is that sweet spot where you are doing what you LOVE doing, what you are GOOD at, what you can be PAID for and what the world NEEDS. How do you fit on this? In your business, I guess you are GOOD AT what you do and can get PAID FOR it. How much time do you spend doing what you LOVE doing? And does the world NEED what your company does?
Chances are, if you can’t say yes to all of these you have not found your ikigai and you probably aren’t fulfilled in your job. Maybe you are doing this role as the family expects you to or you are so busy you haven’t had the moment to even consider it. So now is your chance!
I am an entrepreneur and have created or co-created a number of commercial and social enterprises. I spent a large chunk of my working life running a boutique retail consultancy. I was GOOD AT it, was well PAID and I loved some of what I did – yet as the years went by, I found it less and less fulfilling. Not having heard of ikigai at the time, I can now see that the world did not NEED what we did and I didn’t spend enough time doing what I LOVE. About 10 years ago, I sold out and bought two supermarkets in North London, developing Thornton’s Budgens – our purpose “We are the Community Supermarket that really Cares”. We created what was for me a different way of running a business, one where we focus on people and planet, and trust profit will follow.
As we developed this, I realised that what we had created at Thorntons’s Budgens was heartful business and that my life’s purpose is to “help put the heart back into business”. Since that realisation three years ago, I am working on a book and have founded Heart in Business Limited to share what my colleagues and I have learnt (the hard way) about running a heartful business. A few key lessons:
- When people are in-flow (doing what they LOVE and are GOOD AT), companies flow and positive things happen. I now spend 90%+ of my time in the ‘passion zone’ (below) – vs. 50-60% three years ago. And sales at Thornton’s Budgens grew 7% when we implemented this work.
- When the leaders of an organisation are ‘in-flow’, they can create a Higher Purpose for their organisation, and create something that the world NEEDS, giving the company a reason for being beyond just making as much profit as possible. All the research I have seen shows companies with a Higher Purpose are far more profitable in the long term.
I leave you with an example of a client who is CEO and the second generation in a family business. He is not fulfilled, seeing that the company his parents established can play a positive role in society and go beyond the purpose his parents created – to provide for the family. Part of him would like to chuck it all in and become a musician. For years his sense of responsibility has kept him from doing this. Yet now thanks to the work we are doing with him, he can see how he can have a fulfilling life within the family business, even though he knows that this process will stretch him.
If this whetted your appetite, click here for a more detailed paper in ikigai and the role of purpose in organisations.
Andrew Thornton is the founder of Thornton’s Budgens and Heart in Business Limited.
If you want to know more about ikigai and the experiences of Andrew Thornton and other family businesses, stay tuned for our upcoming events.