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Finding Your Ikigai: Planning for a Purposeful Career

Courage can come in different forms. It can come from a place of love, desire to protect, or a strong sense of belief or purpose. Courage can also be about letting go of labels which you choose to impose on yourself.

The theme for the Future Women Leader's Forum (FWLF) 2022 is #CouragetoCreate – to have the courage to bring the control and influence back in your hands, to change, to reach out, and to be vulnerable to seek out help when you need support.

“It’s a thin line between courage and fear. The latter is when you do nothing about it”. - The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Shamantha Yan, Co-founder of Growthbeans, shared her version of what courage is and her life journey to finding her ikigai at FWLF on the 26th of February. Here are 8 tips to help you gain more confidence and clarity in direction. This can support one’s transition into the workplace.

1. If You Really Want It, You Will Find a Way

That comes with the commitment you display and the efforts you make to work towards it. It gives people the trust and confidence to know that you are serious about something.

But what if you don’t know what you want? Overthinking can result in analysis paralysis. It is important to be clear about what it is you are trying to figure out. Be open to create experiences and exposure to learn more about yourself.

Here is a framework that can guide you. Ikigai is a sweet spot about what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you are good at. What the diagram does not cover is what success means to you, as well as your mindsets, characteristics, beliefs and attitudes.

2. Focus On What You Have, Not What You Don't Have

Have the courage to be authentic, to manage uncertainty by focusing on the power you have, and acknowledge that pain and pleasure are not mutually exclusive.

Authenticity = Self-Awareness x Courage

  • Have courage to face yourself and do/be different

  • Start by being self-aware

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

  • To feel less uncertain, start to focus on what you have power over

  • Focus on what you have, not what you lack

Calling = Pleasure / Pain

  • Pleasure and pain are not mutually exclusive. They are different sides of the coin.

3. Take Action!

When you feel overwhelmed, there is a tendency to retreat into your safe zone. You may end up over-thinking or romanticising. When you romanticise things and make something seem better or more appealing than it really is, you might set yourself up for disappointment ad imagining and experiencing something can be quite different in reality.

Shamantha’s childhood ambition was to be a doctor but she got rejected after her admissions interview. She did not pursue it because of the high cost to study overseas. From a career perspective, as a business owner in the self-awareness and well-being space today, her path would seem very different from the medical route.

Looking back, the “What” has transformed from saving people to empowering people for Shamantha. However, the underlying "Why" remains the same – togetherness. Togetherness to her was about people being healthy together for a long period of time. Now, togetherness is about the quality of connections.

If you spend time understanding what drives you, therein you could find answers to what careers you could try. When you put yourself out there to try a variety of things, it can help guide you to make decisions by considering things from a different perspective.

4. Exposure and Sphere of Influence

Following the rejection to medical school, Shamantha dived into an area unknown to her. Her eventual decision to enrol in Sociology was inspired by her GP teacher’s words: “To tackle this topic, you would need a sociology degree”.

Moving from the Triple Science stream into Sociology, she was exposed to culture and diversity, and the importance of debunking assumptions by not taking things for granted. More importantly, she learnt about ethnocentrism and how one should not impose their beliefs on others.

Being in Sociology also enabled her to be part of other opportunities such as the University Scholar’s Programme in NUS and the NUS Overseas College, where she was exposed to entrepreneurship in other countries. This whole new world of grey taught her a different way of thinking and navigating the world.

5. Define What Success Means to You

Reflect on what really matters. Every decision you make has trade-offs. What is the balance that you would like for yourself? What does success mean to you? What is your fulfilment and meaning?

6. Set Intent and Create Meaning

Reframe your intention and create meaning in what you do.

Reflect on what gives you meaning and what you would like to create for yourself. Meaning doesn't have to be really big. It can be as fundamental as wanting to give your family a healthy life.

7. Never Say Never. Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

Shamantha never thought she would pick up Computer Science because it was something that seemed daunting. However during her 6-month sabbatical in Silicon Valley, she tried learning coding and that gave her a new found appreciation for programming that she took another module on programming later in NUS.

Not only was it a new technical skill, it was also empowering for her. It trained her to dream of possibilities and then to work backwards, break it down into small bite-sized components to build it up. It also helped her see what she is creating in connection with the ecosystem and build up her resilience in the debugging process.

8. Be Self-Aware

In the early days of starting Growthbeans, a social enterprise that supports the self-awareness of individuals for their growth and well-being, Shamantha's biggest battle was with fear and courage.

When things are uncertain and you are not sure where you are headed, it is easy to be overwhelmed with fear. It is also easy to question why you do what you do, to feel inclined to compare your return of investment with others, and to want to give up.

At moments like this, the courage to create and continue the journey came from the network of support that Shamantha had, remembering what she stands for, and why she started the entrepreneurship journey in the first place.

You cannot have passion without sustainability. And you cannot make a change without discomfort, a lot of effort, and time. The road to success is a long one, and it comes with its ups and downs. At the end of the day, Shamantha realised the biggest obstacle was herself. She had to get over her mindset and her beliefs. It took recognising her patterns and thoughts for her to know what she needs to do differently.

We are all on our own journeys and there is no need for comparison. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person whom you were yesterday. As long as you keep on improving, you will get to where you want.

How you choose to think about fear can make a difference to how you respond to it. When you feel overwhelmed, it is important to learn to take a step back and process those thoughts. Then, choose the thoughts you want to focus on. Your thoughts are within your choice and your control of influence, and you have the power to influence your emotions, behaviours, and actions.


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Organising Committee: Member Recruitment

Author: Lim Mei Yu Speaker: Shamantha Yan Partner: Growthbeans

Editors: Rachel Leow, Ratna Juita, Joey Ong

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