One of the primary factors that motivates people to start their own businesses is the belief that it will enable them to lead meaningful lives, according to a recent survey. With a sense of meaning and purpose, individuals showed a greater propensity to become confident, goal-focused, and energetic. The conclusion is that a sense of meaning in life is what inspires the entrepreneurial spirit.
Of course, the idea of “meaning in life” is ambiguous. What exactly does it mean to have a sense of meaning? In entrepreneurship, meaning derives from a sense of purpose and the feeling that individuals can have a significant impact on the world. People with a sense of meaning feel that they are important and that what they do has real meaning to their loved ones and their communities, as well as to society in a broader sense. A long history of psychological research has demonstrated the importance of having a sense of meaning in order to develop resiliency and to maintain focus when situations become difficult. People who are driven by a sense of purpose are more optimistic about the future and more motivated in the present.
Developing a Sense of Meaning in Connection with Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs should be diligent about developing a sense of meaning. Regardless of where individuals are on their entrepreneurial journey, they can take time to reflect on what gives their lives meaning and how they can further develop a sense of purpose. Entrepreneurial ambitions should build upon this sense of meaning. Oftentimes, meaning comes from close relationships with loved ones. Thus, business plans should outline not only the necessary steps toward fulfilling one’s own ambitions, but also how they can benefit the people that entrepreneurs care about most. Businesses can be built that will create new opportunities for friends and family members, or make it easier to be there for these individuals when they need help. Entrepreneurial pursuits can also be structured to allow people to spend more time with their loved ones.
Of course, a sense of purpose often extends beyond service to friends and family members. Over time, entrepreneurs should think about how their business can contribute to the larger community. Over time, this impact can grow and serve to bolster one’s sense of meaning. Importantly, focusing on meaning often helps to provide inspiration to entrepreneurs and pushes them to generate new ideas and come up with important innovations that can solve problems faced by the larger community. A sense of meaning can push entrepreneurs to make a lasting difference in the world, whether it means meeting the unmet needs of a particular population or coming up with an innovative solution to a problem that has plagued the community for many years.
Finding and Maintaining Balance in One’s Life
Entrepreneurs may want to consider the Japanese concept of ikigai, which is a combination of the Japanese verb “to live” and a word that means “the realization of what one hopes for,” which many consider to be a sense of meaning in life. Living with ikigai means to have something to wake up for each morning and has been associated with the longer and more fulfilled lives that people lead in Japan. While only about 30 percent of people in Japan define their jobs as ikigai, entrepreneurship involves connecting one’s sense of meaning directly to one’s own career path. While most people find meaning outside of their jobs, entrepreneurs figure out how they can make their careers into “ikigai.” Notably, ikigai is more than just what people are passionate about. In Japan, ikigai is also connected to using one’s skills and passions. While getting paid for ikigai is rare, it is perhaps the exact thing for which entrepreneurs should strive.
Ikigai represents the importance of finding balance when it comes to the discovery of a sense of meaning. Entrepreneurs need to figure out what motivates them on a daily basis and to seek out opportunities to help other people. If individuals focus too much on their own interests, they may miss out on opportunities to use their unique skills and passions to serve their community. However, focusing completely on helping other people can cause individuals to lose motivation. Ikigai emphasizes the need to keep both one’s self and others in mind in order to achieve true fulfillment. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist who wrote Give and Take discusses a trait he calls “otherish,” which is the ability to give more than you receive while still keeping your personal interests in mind. Entrepreneurs should strive to become “otherish” in order to find balance and ultimately achieve success when it comes to building their businesses.