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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Navigating Career Uncertainty: Ikigai revisited [Wise Wednesdays]

It was a true pleasure to be part of the UCL Climate Change and Health Panel for the 8th year. I feel the conversations are getting deeper and the questions from the students are increasingly pertinent. I feel hope for the future listening to them. A warm welcome to you if you joined Wise Wednesdays following the event!


[Photo: With the wonderful Professor Ilan Kelman (author of Disaster by Choice), Dr. Izzy Braithwaite (transitioned from clinical medicine to a PhD in Public Health), and Dr. Geordan Shannon (former Academic Global Health professional turned founder of Global Health Disrupted). Prof. Kelman brought us together to illustrate the diversity of experiences and possible career transitions.]


A perennial question is: what do I do when I don’t know what to do? 


It gets to the heart of everything – the inherent uncertainty of life which is amplified when going through a transition. Career transitions are more likely to succeed with higher Ambiguity Tolerance.


So what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You explore.


One of the most useful tools I’ve found for this is Ikigai.


Here’s how it works.


[Read on or watch the video.]


Ikigai is the Japanese concept of ‘purpose’, ‘reason for being or ‘sweet spot’. It asks you to reflect on 4 intersecting areas of work:


1.    Passion: What deeply moves you? Consider social justice, technology, culture, etc. It will usually relate to a foundational aspect of society.

2.    Zone of Genius: Where do your unique gifts lie? Distinguish between innate talents like storytelling that moves crowds and acquired skills like good PowerPoint presentation.

3.    The world’s needs: What is the desperate for? Think of socio-ecologically aware leadership, complexity simplifiers, peacemakers, etc.

4.    Your needs: What will the world pay you for? It could be a role (e.g. a doctor) or independent value creation (e.g. entrepreneurship).


I talk about Ikigai in the Success Trap book or you can download the exercise here.


A small but important note: Remember that your needs go beyond money and status (Tony Robbins’ six human needs are: safety, challenge, belonging, significance, growth and service). Ensure your work doesn't consume precious time meant for meaningful relationships and well-being. Letting go of a pay rise or promotion because it doesn’t align with the value you place on health and personal relationships is a courageous and very valid stand.



Legend in the Making: Dr. Y started her transformational coaching journey while working in a foreign policy government department, but soon identified that her true values lay in freedom, creativity and family. Transitioning to her own consultancy in line with her Ikigai, she continued to focus on her passion for global health and social justice. Her gifts and expertise lie in simplifying complex initiatives, designing equitable health systems, and facilitating dialogue among diverse stakeholders. Of course, her skills in navigating complex systems and communication are critical in today's increasingly uncertain landscape, and she’s in demand at the UN. She's learned to navigate the consulting world and negotiate fair compensation while making space for creative writing, connecting with nature, and looking after her little ones.


To know what to do, you must not know first. Embrace uncertainty, explore your Ikigai which will reconnect you with a sense of possibility and innate purpose. Things will unfold naturally from there.


Have a great week,



A few events coming up next month:


1.     LeadershipExpand Your Impact intensive (London). Join me and Creative Leadership expert Iwona Fluda for a 2 hour intensive in beautiful Hampstead on Sunday, March 3rd . Contribute to a deep dive and get support on your specific challenges and opportunities in today's fast-paced business world. If you want to connect live with like-minded leaders who are passionate about driving positive change in a relaxed and creative atmosphere, this is for you. Details and tickets here.



2.    Money: Leaders Circle on Money Uncertainty (online) – details coming soon!


3.    Relationships: Cambridge Medical Graduates Society event (London): Dealing with a Toxic Colleague. I’m excited to offer live coaching for doctors at this event for Cambridge alumni. With so much of our time spent at work, having a toxic colleague can be a major source of stress and frustration. This event will provide live coaching with practical strategies for navigating this challenging situation and maintaining your well-being. If you're a Cambridge medical graduate, you can find the details and register here.




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