Have You Found Your Ikigai?


What’s your reason for getting up in the morning?

The Japanese have a concept called Ikigai. Pronounced ick-ee-guy, Ikigai lies at the intersection of what you are good at, what you love doing, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs. At the 2019 Imagine H2O Innovation Summit, when PNCWA member Mark Poling asked attendees who felt like they brought their whole selves to work, many raised their hands. He then asked if their staff did the same—to illustrate that leadership isn’t just about developing ourselves, but also about bringing others along with us. The stronger a team is as individuals, the stronger the team is as a whole.

The idea of bringing our whole self to work is indicative of maintaining a work-life balance. The more we do to hone in on our center, Ikigai, the happier we’ll be. In turn, happiness fuels creativity, innovation, and morale—all necessary to foster a workforce responsible for clean water services.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

Leadership training often gets pegged as a professional development measure or a perk for upper management. While that may very well be true, training is also an opportunity for people to learn who they are as individuals. The more you learn about yourself, the more you notice the interconnectedness between all the areas of your life. The better aligned these areas are, the more happiness and fulfillment you find.

At PNCWA, the Leadership Development Committee is passionate about providing the clean water workforce with the resources and opportunities professionals need to become better leaders inspired to bring their whole selves to work. This month, the Leadership Development and Student and Young Professional committees are partnering to host the Gallup CliftonStrengths Workshop on June 13. There are limited spots available, so please RSVP as soon as possible. This workshop, which promises to be energetic and highly interactive, allows you to explore how to develop talents into strengths, how to aim your talents at career goals, and how to create your own strengths-based development plan.

The Leadership Development committee also works hard to build out the leadership library on the PNCWA website, as well as to facilitate webinars, mentoring opportunities, and succession planning for members. The committee even developed a PNCWA Leadership Certificate Program. If you’re passionate about leadership and want to find out more about what the committee does and how you can help, please reach out to the committee chair, Amy Dammarell, at [email protected].

The greatest association-wide opportunity for leadership comes in the fall each year when PNCWA hosts the annual conference. Members from across the region come together to share lessons and to learn from one another. This year’s theme is centered around building bridges and how we, as a member association, can serve as a bridge between our members and the resources they need to excel as individuals and professionals in the vital clean water workforce. Most importantly, the annual conference offers our members the opportunity to build bridges between one another to gain perspective and inspiration from one another as we work towards creating more diversity and inclusion in the water workforce.

Conference registration is open now, as is the conference hotel block rate. The conference hotel fills up fast, so be sure to book your accommodation as soon as possible. We look forward to seeing you in Portland September 8-11 at PNCWA2019.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  John Quincy Adams

Leadership is a verb, not a noun. While it requires work and effort, the ROI is priceless. Leaders don’t just sit at the head of the table. Leaders exist throughout the organization. You never know who you might inspire.

Leaders aren’t immune to frustration either, but a person who invests time in knowing themselves is a magnet for like-minded people who offer support in times of adversity. The tribe of people that builds around a person living their truth is one of the core benefits of achieving ikigai.

Growing in leadership can be a daunting journey, but don’t be overwhelmed by the idea. You don’t have to add everything to your plate at once. Pick one aspect in which to grow and take action. Maybe you begin by discovering your own ikigai. Maybe next year, you not only attend the PNCWA conference but also submit an abstract to present. Maybe you don’t just sign up to attend the Gallup CliftonStrengths Workshop, but you also invite someone in your organization to attend with you. Perhaps you and your guest hold each other accountable to implement one of the lessons you learned during the workshop.

Maybe this year, instead of simply thinking someone is doing a fantastic job, you take the time to submit an award nomination for them. Challenge yourself to do more than just show up. Find a way to be involved that resonates with you and allows you to bring your whole self to work.

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