(This post is reposted from an interview with Parsons: The New School. You can find the original article here.)
The average person spends roughly one-third of their life working—that’s an awfully long time if your work doesn’t make you truly happy. The Pandemic and the Great Resignation have made many people, especially designers who have already been working in silos pre-pandemic, left questioning if their work is really making them fulfilled.
I have been working as a Visual Designer for a tech startup for roughly six years. Helping the company grow up to acquisition is still one of the proudest moments in my career, and I feel incredibly lucky to have found that sweet spot between earning money and fueling my passion. But even though we might be one of the lucky ones to work with what we love, there is one component we’re often missing to feel truly fulfilled with our jobs.
As Dr. Arthur in a podcast with Rich Roll beautifully put it, finding happiness basically has three components:
We all need these three in balance, and we need these three in abundance.
Sounds fantastic, but in such a messy and capitalistic world we live in, how do we actually find meaning and purpose? Heck, for a long time I was wondering if I was even able to make a change as a designer. Can design even change the world?
When I came across the Japanese concept IKIGAI, your reason for being, it change my life — It is in the simplest terms taking what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs to find the sweet spot.
Love + Good At = Passion.
Good at + Paid For = Your Job.
Love + World Needs = Mission
Paid For + World Needs = Vocation
All of these combined = IKIGAI.
Even though you’ve found your passion and been able to make it to your job, to find true happiness, we need to look even further and see how we can find meaning & purpose, and thus find our reason for being.
My first breakthrough was to change my way of looking at how I approach my job. It’s easy to get caught up in your tickets and meetings without reflecting on how your work is impacting those around you. I started out as one of the first designers at my tech company and am still one of the few female designers, so I’ve been fortunate to inspire more women to pursue their careers in tech and especially working as a designer in this male-dominant field. I am also one of the few internationals on my team and have helped bring diversity to the team and challenged us to think about our product with an international perspective, making sure that our platform is as seamless to use no matter where in the world you’re viewing from.
As the company has been growing rapidly, more and more amazing stories have come in from our users about how they’ve been so grateful to have now finally gotten access to movies and shows that were otherwise locked behind paid walls. Those stories in themselves have made everything that I do at the company feel much more meaningful. I am working because I believe in our product and I want to create the best experience for our viewers.
Whenever I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough, I look for how I can contribute to society on an individual level:
So many of us have been making it our life’s mission to find our passion and find a way for it to pay the bills. But to find true happiness, we need to look further and discover our reason for being. That is now my way of approaching all the work that I do, and to feel like I am never working a day in my life.