Lonely old men and ikigai

In November I attended the Mashing Up Conference again. I really love this event because it’s “cool”. It has a casual vibe and is just a bit edgier than your average D&I “empowerment” conference. The team do try to bring some different ideas to the stage as well as some local legends.

I was happy to join two discussions where I could listen to the wry and laser sharp insights of one of those legends, Chizuko Ueno, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo who used her entrance ceremony speech as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the reality of institutional gender discrimination in Japan. Ueno sensei has an amazing delivery style where she challenges with the sweetest, most innocent question that just stops other panelists in their tracks. It is magic to watch!

In the first session, Ueno sensei talked about the family structure – here is the info from the Mashing Up website.

家族のカタチ2019 – 家族 is the bestという呪縛Family Diversity – Time to Reshape the Family Structure「家族末永く仲良く=素晴らしい」。そんな価値観が強い日本社会で、家族とのつながりに苦しんでいる人がいるのも事実。おひとりさま問題、介護問題、夫婦別姓問題も含めて、家族とはどうあるべきか。そのあり方を問い直します。

“Families that get along forever = wonderful.” This value is strong in Japanese society, but it is also true there are people who are suffering due to their family relationships. What should families be like, including people who are alone, people caring for family members, and husbands and wives having different family names? Those things will be reconsidered.

One idea in particular struck me in relation to my work on Ikigai and creating long and healthy lives worth living.

Talking on the subject of 介護 (elder care), Ueno sensei mentioned that she is hearing many adult children say

“I will look after my mother because I love her. But my father?! No way! I can’t stand him.”

It struck me as such a sad and terrible view. I thought about all the fathers who have been focused on their companies with no time for their families. The result is fathers who are so focused on financially supporting the family that they become alienated from the lack of relationship.

Men’s ikigai and their role in the family

A few weeks ago as part of my Ikigai research, I met with Dr. Akihiro Hasegawa, Associate Professor at Toyo Eiwa University and an ikigai researcher. He told me a similar story. Japanese men who live in multi-generational households with their sons after retirement report a decrease in their ikigai. Dr. Hasegawa explains that this is because their ikigai was so tied up in their self identity as the breadwinner, the head of the household, that when the generational roles shift, they lose their sense of self and purpose. Dr. Hasegawa’s research shows a strong link between having an ikigai and better health, slower onset of dementia and so on.

(As a side note, I asked if there was any impact to living with adult daughters and the answer was no. It seems that the father’s ego can survive that relationship into old age!)

Again, this idea of isolated fathers struck me as so sad and yet also so avoidable if we can change the working style and support people living different types of partnerships at home with an emphasis on family first. Glen Wood is doing a lot to raise awareness on パパハラ(Papa Hara – paternity harassment). It isn’t easy for men to ask for permission to break from the サラリマン salariman stereotype and spend time with their families. But the social and personal costs of isolation in old age for these types of people are no longer sustainable.

What do you think?

How can we start to address this problem? Some efforts are being made at the policy level but what can private enterprises and individuals do to support a healthier and happier second life and what might be the positive impact on society from that.

The fragility of systems and getting back on the horse

I remember learning early in my career that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (although that myth may have been busted). I think we can all agree that it takes much less time to break one.

Over the period of the Rugby World Cup my sister and her family visited us. Absolutely amazing experience for us all and I had a whale of a time! With an extra 5 people in the house, and a packed schedule of sightseeing, eating Japanese food and drinking beer and sake, it did not take much to get me out of my morning ritual.

I usually wake up around 5:30-6am  and then either go running with my running club or do yoga at home. Wake up the kids at 7 and they are out of the house for 8:10. In the evening, depending on the day, I pick up the youngest around 6pm, dinner at home, bath and bed by 9pm. We have days clearly defined for screen ok and no screen days.

Well, a staycation with kids at school, threw all of that out of the window.

And I really felt the difference.

Whilst we were certainly getting our daily steps in, and I did have an amazing time the fragility of my system became clear. So this got me to thinking about some of the ways that work for me and my coaching clients to get things back on the habit horse. There is no size fits all so use this list as inspiration!

And if you want to look at habits more deeply in your team, contact me to set up a Four Tendencies Workshop. Great for individuals and people managers alike.

Getting back on the Habit Horse

  1. Make it the default – eat the frog and do it first. It is not about a choice but like tooth brushing something that you do without fail. 
  2. Prepare the night before – this is about creating ease. For example, last night, I laid out my running clothes, plus my clothes to wear for the day. I was intentional in my choices after a week in casual sightseeing wear to want to be “coordinated” and colorful.
  3. Don’t break the chain – similar to the default above but there is a great feeling of seeing the days add up on the calendar. Get visual about it and you might be able to see the impact. And there is something great about saying, “Wow, I did X everyday for Y days”. Take a look at Outrun Cancer for an inspiring take on this.
  4. Make it easy – going to the gym requires too many steps for me! Registering initially and then getting out the door, to the gym, possibly joining a class. So I workout at home, and just choose the most recent session. I love doing plans like Yoga with Adrienne: 30 days of Yoga (coming up live in January every year), or one of the Nike training courses where you get told “do this today”.
  5. Make the activity a reward in itself – very much of the idea of Be Kind to Your Future Self. How luxurious to spend time doing this task! How wonderful will I feel when I am finished! How clear my mind will be!
  6. Multipliers  – I came upon this in a Lean In Circle meeting which focuses on how you can combine multiple activities into one. This is not the same as multitasking but about thinking about bigger goals or values that you have and how you can combine your activities to support those goals. For example, my goal was to find ways to refresh my energy during the workday, stay fit and connect with my friend (also a colleague) so we arranged a weekly lunchtime run on a Friday. We could talk as we ran, felt energized from the endorphins after even a short 20 minute run. Think about a couple of goals and values that are important to you and work out ways that you can combine 2 or more together in an activity. It is easier than you think.
  7. What is the MVP? Minimum Viable Product is a lean startup term that helps us to consider what the minimum feature set required to get feedback from customers is. Having an MVP for your habit might be doing 3 minutes of mindfulness instead of 20, limiting coffee intake to the morning instead of quitting completely, committing to calling 5 customers instead of 10. Whilst your real goal and regular activity level might be more lofty, you will gain from the quick win and instant gratification of doing something. This can be a powerful motivator to exceed your goal and do more. If not, at least you started and an MVP is always about iteration. Just Ship It!
  8. Count to 5 – this is Mel Robbins 5 second rule It has worked very well for me about getting out of bed in the cold winter mornings. I even changed my alarm clock to 5:55 (Go, Go, Go! in Japanese) to reinforce the message.

Be kind to yourself

It’s easy to beat yourself up when you let a habit slip and I know that I did. But shame is not a helpful energy or emotion to drive growth. Instead, analyze the why and think about how you can most easily put one of the habits back into place today.

Even if it not a “full” display of your habits, even if it is not a perfect version, your first action is to ship it. To climb back on the horse. Get started!

But maybe I don’t want to anymore

Everything happens for a reason right? A slipped habit might be a good time to check whether this habit is still necessary. They might not even be useful or important to you anymore.

So when you find yourself feeling at sea and that your rituals and habits are no longer anchoring you it is good to ask yourself the following coaching questions.

  • What makes this ritual or habit important to me? What goal is it supporting?
  • Is that still important to me? 
  • What would happen if I stop? How does that feel?
  • If you feel lighter, released, then it might be time to say goodbye or to reframe this habit!
  • Still want to continue? What can I do to reintroduce this habit? What will make it easy to do? What is the MVP I can start with today?
  • When will I check in with myself to track my progress on reintroducing this habit?

Want to learn more about how you and your team can create Habits? I deliver a 90 minute to 4 hour workshop on Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies Framework. Fascinating with great takeaways for individual and people managers about motivation, communication and how to get stuff done!

What do you think?

How do you get yourself back on track? As always, would love to see your comments and ideas below!

Talking Ikigai and Gaman in my podcast debut

Whilst I’ve done plenty of public speaking and a couple of YouTube videos (Thrive Tokyo and about the Wor Watthana Muay Thai gym in Thailand), I’ve never been on a podcast! I’m always talking about the importance of getting used to hearing your voice as other people hear it but hadn’t recorded myself recently – time to walk the talk.

So I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just been featured on the Transformations with Jayne Podcast. You can find it over on iTunes Episode 58 or over at Anchor with lots of different ways to listen. It was a great experience to talk informally about a whole host of topics. Jayne was a member of the Lean In Japan Entrepreneur Circle that I ran from 2017 to 2019 so it was great to catch up with her as well!

In this episode we talk about:
The  recent typhoon and flooding
How Jennifer came to be in Japan
What is “ikigai”
Points of You® coaching
Hope you enjoy the discussion and there are some useful ideas for you!

If you’d like to be featured in my book about how you integrated your ikigai, please contact me through the website to share your story!

Doing

What is “Doing” in Points of You®?

Create a new reality

It’s time to advance from thought to action. We draft an action plan or To-Do List that outlines the necessary steps and sets the timetable for realizing our insights.

“Tachles” is a word often using by Points of You® Tribe members. Yaron Golan, co-founder of Points of You® told us at the 5 day training programme in November 2018, “Originally, Tachles is a German word, in Israel it is commonly used as slang, meaning “the bottom line of doing”

This is the excel sheet behind our dreams.

I really love this connection between the pragmatic and the creative.

We can think and think and dream and dream. We can create our vision boards, talk about how we want the world to be but until we take the first small step to action, it is nothing more than a dream.

And we need a plan – to outline the steps and reflect on our progress. Maybe we need to pivot later if we find out that the action did not have the expected outcome.

Countless times in my life I have hesitated, I’ve been led by fear. Fear of failure, looking stupid, losing something precious to me. I remember when I set up my business in 2016 – no clients, no experience in the training room for 7 years. What was I thinking? And yet, each small action, each meeting allowed things to grow, to make something from nothing, to integrate my ikigai and do work that I truly love, am good at, can be paid for and that the world needs.

Taking the first step is often the hardest. (Actually as a Spartan, I love this picture. Reminds me of some great experiences!)

I remember learning a valuable distinction about two types of fear from Tara Mohr (seriously, this book was a game changer for me I read it in March 2016 just as I was about to hand in my resignation. Forever grateful to Tara and her team for their support!)

Tara has a great video about the two types of fear here and some advice

Next time you are in a moment that brings fear:
1. Ask yourself: what part of this fear is pachad? Write down the imagined outcomes you fear, the lizard brain fears. Remind yourself that they are just imagined, and that pachad-type fears are irrational.
2. Savor yirah. Ask yourself: what part of this fear is yirah? You’ll know yirah because it has a tinge of exhilaration and awe -while pachad has a sense of threat and panic. Lean into – and look for – the callings and leaps that bring yirah.

Tara Mohr My Favourite Teaching about Fear

Using the Focus Notes to take the first step

The thing I like the most about using the Focus Notes in Points of You® is the brevity. Pocket sized, you can stick onto your desktop, your fridge, your mirror or wherever you need to be able to see it.

Focus notes booklet on the top left hand side of this picture. Each note can easily be removed from the book so you can take it anywhere,

And they are simple.

What can you do in 24 hours? 1 week? 1 month?

Will it be a conversation with a key stakeholder? Or a change in your sefl-talk?

Something to start doing? Something to stop doing?

A one-off action or a habit-creation?

(I offer programmes on Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies if you want to learn more about how to create habits for you and your team members. I really find this concept to make so much sense and now leverage my Obliger tendencies to build in external accountability to help me deliver on those habits. Contact me to find out more)

One of the questions from Punctum and a helpful guide to “Doing”

Want to find out more about Points of You® Methods?

I run open workshops once a quarter and am currently offering Corporate Experiences with Points of You® at a very special rate.
Find out about Open Courses on Peatix
Corporate Experiences

Finding Focus

I’m sitting in Tully’s with the purpose of writing this post on my calendar. I’ve been here for 40 minutes and variously scrolled through linkedin, facebook and email and LINE. My mind is jumping around and I’m finding Focus elusive. Two men near me are talking loudly and whilst I can tune out their conversation the voices pull me out of focus.

When I think of focus it brings images of productivity, laser-sharp, relentless drive to be the best at something, to deliver on one thing. It’s GaryVee and endless hustle. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of GaryVee’s tough love to tell me to stop making excuses and yet…

There is no space for multitasking, no pinwheel brain, no dips in energy. Always grinding to drive success.

And I start to feel guilty, why don’t I have more self discipline? Why can’t I keep promises to myself and instead focus on external accountability (which can be hard to find as your own boss!)? I download app blockers and then don’t use them. And I start to feel a bit disappointed in myself.

But then I look at productivity rates and realise that long hours doesn’t correlate with innovation and creativity. That forcing an idea tends to squish it rather than giving it space to grow. I’m reminded of the Tim Urban TED Talk “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator“, and my favourite quotation about procrastination:


You call it procrastinating. I call it thinking.”

Aaron Sorkin

On the other side of the hustle of Focus is “Flow”.

Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (Wired Magazine)

I remember feeling a sense of Flow at the WIN Conference, Tokyo, Japan. May 11th 2018. Completely involved in the activity and “in the zone”
Photographer: Elena Tyutina.

Whilst I find myself achieving flow when I am facilitating, writing, and on a good day running, what I lack is the flow between actions. What to do next? Sometimes just the getting started and that is why I find the Points of You® description of Focus so liberating.

What is Focus in Points of You®?

A conscious choice

Now we focus on our most significant insights. We use guiding questions to clarify and define exactly which of the newly discovered possibilities is right for our journey or for the issue at hand.

” A conscious choice” – One of my words for the year is “Intention” (The other is “I’m enough” which came out of my Points of You 5 day training in November 2018). Intention to me is all about conscious choices.

Who do I want to be in this conversation? How do I want to behave in this meeting? What is my intention behind this next action?

When it comes to focus being “a conscious choice”, asking myself which of the opportunities for action is going to bring me closer to my goals and allow me to integrate my ikigai is a useful north star.

See, I even bought a candle with the purpose of upgrading my intention!

It feels like a gift goal, a concept I learnt from Tara Mohr. When I focus only on the shoulds, the burden of social expectation, I reduce my impact. When I do work that feels expansive, luxurious and enriching, I feel closer to my ikigai. I see that I am making the choice that is right for my journey at this time.

In the Points of You® process, usually the most meaningful focus area jumps out at you. The next challenge is to move that focus to action, to “Doing”.

P.S. I wrote the first draft of this post in 20 minutes. Spent longer procrastinating and worrying about what I was going to write about Focus. As a client said this week “Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty and something beautiful will appear”

Want to find out more about Points of You® Methods?

I’m running two open workshops on July 16th and currently offering Corporate Experiences with Points of You® at a very special rate.
Find out about Open Courses on Peatix
Corporate Experiences

Why Pause?

“Pause” is the first step of the Points of You® Method

Why pause? I know that you are busy, always on and the fact that you are reading this means you are online.

But being “always on” and the cult of “busy-ness” take a toll on your body and your mind.

Take a moment now and breathe in…yes, a big inhalation for the count of 4. Hold your breath for 4.

And now, exhale for 8.

Make your exhalation longer.

Slow down, reset.

Repeat 5 times and ask yourself “How am I?” What are you feeling in your body? How is that feeling impacting those around you? Can you shift your focus and approach your next interaction differently?

How to integrate a daily pause?

It doesn’t need to be a 30 minute meditation or a mindfulness practice. You don’t need a darkened room, a yoga soundtrack or a tibetan chime. (although these are lovely and I’m a huge fan of the headspace app for guided meditation and a whole suite of mindfulness offerings)

I use a short pause before a meeting or a workshop begins, as I shift from being entrepreneur to caregiver, and before I go to sleep. Taking these moments to check in with myself makes a lot of difference to my approach to my work and to others.

In a workshop, we might listen to music for 7 minutes, focus on the breath or even do 10 star jumps and then check our pulse! Anything that allows you to be in a different state and remove daily distractions helps.

Do you really use a pause in a corporate workshop? Don’t people freak out? Isn’t is a bit touchy feely?

This is such a common question from Corporate clients!

On the contrary, now I’ve delivered Points of You® workshops in so many different settings with sales people, engineers, operations staff, new hires and global leaders, I see that it is so essential to get people ready to be creative, to look for a different approach from the default.

One of the most valuable moments is the few seconds after the Pause where I see that people’s faces have become softer, they are relaxed and ready to take risks, share their experiences. Giving permission to “just be” for a few moments really enables participants to shed a layer of resistance and focus on what is important to them as an outcome for the workshop.

Want to find out more about Points of You® Methods?

I’m running two open workshops on July 16th and currently offering Corporate Experiences with Points of You® at a very special rate.
July 16th Open Courses on Peatix
Corporate Experiences

Integrating Ikigai around the world with Points of You®

March was an amazing month as I was able to deliver 4 Ikigai x Points of You® workshops with very diverse audiences around the world

On March 4th, I delivered a 90 minute corporate session to an in-house Learning and Development team. Always a good challenge to facilitate for professionals. They all commented what a treat it was to be in the participant seat for a change!

Great personal insights using the Points of You® method. Enjoyable and also insightful

Ikigai Taster Session – Corporate Participant

On March 5th, 8 people attended a sold out open session in Kinshicho at Smart Partners K.K.’s warm and open space. Even in a short amount of time people were able to develop a clearer perspective of what their Ikigai was and some small actions they could take to move forwards.

The contents was simple but powerful and professional facilitation of the program, with warm and relaxed atmosphere. It was test trial version of 90min, so it would be nice to join full session to see what are the outcome if we took more time of each work. Fantastic workshop! Thank you.

Ikigai Taster Session Participant

The session helped me confirm what is my Ikigai and realize the gap between what I’m doing now and what I want to do. I’ve started to think about taking small actions to fill the gap.

Ikigai Taster Session Participant

I especially appreciated her approach of adhering to the workshop’s protocol while allowing for individual interpretation of its components. Jennifer balances kindness and friendliness with the instructor role well.

Ikigai Taster Session Participant

March 21st took me to Costa Rica for the first time to deliver the Ikigai and Points of You® Workshop internationally at the UN University for Peace. As part of the Gross Global Happiness Executive Development program, 20 people explored the four questions of Ikigai. I was thrilled to see how it resonated with participants from the Americas and Europe. And it’s not a Points of You® session without something “unexpected but precise” – the campus cat and dog paid a visit, reminding me not to take things too seriously and to be open to teachable moments!

Finally on March 28th, an executive client flew in from Brazil for the express purpose of finding out about the practical application of the Ikigai X Points of You® workshop for corporate clients. It was fascinating to hear how Ikigai is viewed overseas and give my perspective on how we can use the concept in a way that makes sense inside organisations. I really want to bust the myth that in order to live your ikigai you need to become an entrepreneur or join an NPO. Through the scale of a larger organisation, you can truly achieve lasting impact and deliver value that the world needs.

Find out more about running the 6 month “Integrate your Ikigai Journey Programme” to increase engagement of your talent in your organisation or arrange a taster session today.