This Ikigai-ish concept can help you focus on your life's meaning.
The Meaning-Pleasure-Strengths activity from Positive Psychology's Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar.
I first learnt about this exercise in Tal Ben-Shahar's book, Happier. It's a simple exercise that can help you discover what your calling in life is and how best you should be spending your time.
If you're also thinking about changing or pursuing a career that can provide you with Meaning and Purpose, then this exercise can really help you narrow down your options too.
It comes from asking yourself these three questions:
1) What can I do that is Meaningful for myself and others? (Meaning)
If you've read my other blog posts, you will know that Positive Psychology has quite a specific definition for what Meaning entails.
Meaning is the intention to achieve a long-term goal that is both personally Meaningful and makes a positive mark on the world.
Think of what it is in your life right now that is personally meaningful to you. Also, what is it that you are doing for others now that gives you purpose in life?
2) What do I want to do, that makes me happy? (Pleasure)
I'm sure there are at least a number of things right now that give you pleasure in life?
Are they certain hobbies? Sports? The drive to gain new knowledge? What about your career, is there anything about your work that gives you joy?
3) What am I good at doing? (Strengths)
If you aren't sure about what you're good at doing, don't fret, two out of every three people don't know their strengths either.
Have a bit of reflection around what are some of the things you're good at. What is it that makes you good around people, or to your family, what gives you success at work, what about your studies?
In Positive Psychology, there's even a concept of Signature Strengths. That is, each of us possess a certain set of strengths that comes from a total of twenth-four possible Signature Strengths. You can find out what your top five Signature Strengths are here.
Make a list of answers for each of these questions.
Once you're done, you should have a list under each category like the below. You can see my own responses for Meaning, Pleasure and Strengths.
From the above, you can see that I find Meaning in being empathetic and helping others, reading and writing and listening to music, as well as learning and having relationships with people and God.
I also find it pleasurable to engage in reading and writing. Listening to music is one thing that really makes me happy. Otherwise, I love outdoor sports and helping others. I'm geeky in the way I love learning new things too.
With strengths, don't worry about being be too modest. No one's here to judge you. My personal strengths are writing (I think), patience, being funny, solving problems, being curious, as well as being empathetic and helping others.
Now let's find out which answers overlap.
In the diagram above, you can see that Writing and Helping Others would give me meaning and pleasure, and it would be something I'm good at too.
To figure out how best I can apply this in my Life or what kind of jobs would be best for me, I should now look at other aspects of my personality and my life.
For example, I've got no professional writing experience, so finding a job that pays me to write might be difficult right now. Helping others is an easier one, but what is the best way I can do so? I have a Master's in Psychology and I'm also a decent data scientist and programmer.
Should I think about teaching data science to people? That's probably a very good option for me and maybe that's the next 9-to-5 job I'll think of pursuing.
Look at what else you've got under Meaning, Pleasure and Strengths. My other strengths are a sense of humour and curiousity. If I combine this with my love of learning and reading, I can probably do something like write about the things I've learnt about in a light-hearted but also serious way, with the goal of helping people.
That's really why I started this Blog!
In the future, I'd really like to make more use of Empathy too. Perhaps I'll think about transitioning back into professional psychotherapy one day? This process certainly makes it seem this way.
So as you can see, the MPS process is really useful in mapping out what we should be doing with our lives.
Once you've done yours, spend some time thinking about how you can put together the Meaning, Pleasure, and Strengths that you've written down. How do you want to spend your life?
Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul! I hope this little activity has been helpful for you!