Nursing as a profession can be quite overwhelming. Just look at what we do on a daily basis, we wake up, prepare for our shift, beat the traffic just like every employee does, arrive at the workplace and that’s where we differ from other regular employees. Why? Because our workplace spells STRESS.

Before you enter your ward, if you’re working in the hospital, you are already under a stressful environment. We deal with stress every single day, the endorsements, the angry families, the toxic patients, and doctors, and co-staffs. Everything around is very stressful. The job itself is stressful; lack of supplies, low salaries for some, understaffed.

ikigai nursing career
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All these things can easily lead to burnout. And with the current situation that we are dealing with, it seems like our job as a nurse just got more difficult than it already is.

Breaking Point

So, it is very understandable that at some point in your career, we ask ourselves, why we ever take this path. Why are we here, and why did we choose to do this? It’s normal to feel the pressure on your shoulders when it’s way too heavy for one to bear. It’s okay to get tired from the years of repeated pounding from your workdays and the long hours spent at work. What’s not okay is to give up. And there are a million ways that we can do to keep on going; oftentimes we conclude that we are just doing this to support our families because if we stop with this job, we wouldn’t be able to support them.

Sometimes we feel that we don’t have any other options hence we get stuck to the thought of being a prisoner to our professions. I can tell that it’s not it. It’s the stress taking its toll. This will serve as a reminder and at the same time guidance that you are on the right path, not all people are destined to do what we do. But here we are. And this will tell you the answer to why you answered the calling of being a Nurse.

Venn diagram image

This is NOT IKIGAI. Most misinterpret it to be a diagram of it but it’s the Venn Diagram of Purpose. But the reason why it was misunderstood to be IKIGAI is that they share the same concept, it’s just that IKIGAI is more focused on “the little things” in life while the Venn Diagram is more career-oriented. Nevertheless, we’ll go through the Venn Diagram as well before we move on to the true IKIGAI. In the Venn Diagram of Purpose, it talks about 4 things:

  • What you love
  • What the world needs
  • What you are good at
  • What you are paid for

The concept of the Venn Diagram of Purpose goes like this:

  • When you Love something and the world needs it, but you’re NOT paid for it, it is called “MISSION”;
  • When you’re good at something and you love it, but you’re NOT paid for it, it is called “PASSION”;
  • When you’re good at it and you’re also paid for it, that becomes your “PROFESSION”;
  • When you’re paid for it and the world needs it, it is called “VOCATION”.

This may come as a surprise for the many but if we look closely at the Nursing profession, we will realize that Nursing fits all the criteria of the Venn Diagram. And it’s not usual for a career to fit all the elements of the Venn Diagram. If we analyze it, the world is in great need of nurses, that is very clear. Second, a person would not be allowed to practice Nursing if he/she isn’t good at it; in fact, we have a very rigorous process of schooling and nursing practice before one can be a licensed Nurse, not to mention the specializations needed in every specific field of nursing practice.

Nurses are paid for doing their jobs. Well, in some countries the wage is very competitive while in some, it is meager. Nevertheless, it fits the criteria.

Do you love it?

The world needs nurses, you have to be good at it before you can even practice it, you can be paid to do it, there’s just one more thing left, do you LOVE it? I think here’s where the problem lies. But before we dive deep into that topic, some nurses really love their profession. Some are even willing to die for this calling, if you are in doubt, let us remember Rouzan Al-Najjar, the Palestinian nurse who died for doing her job as a nurse.

Putting the Venn Diagram into perspective, how Rouzan viewed nursing during that day was not as a profession, but a mission. She was not paid during that time, she volunteered to help the needy. So YES, some people love nursing, that they would die answering their calling. How about you? Why do you think you choose Nursing? Or are you like the many nurses that didn’t choose this profession but it was a parental influence? Be it as it may, it all boils down to your purpose in this life. If you don’t love nursing, but you’re good at it (since you practice it) and you’re paid for it, look at it as a profession, in time you’ll find that it will become a passion, something that you’ll learn to love.

Passion is Built, not Found

According to Simon Sinek, passion is not something that you find around the corner when you do a turn in your life. It’s something that you do day in and day out. It’s something that you continuously spend your efforts on. It doesn’t just pop out of the blue, it is what you work hard for. And you may not realize it at first, but ultimately, you’ll mold into your craft until such time that you realize that this profession has become your passion.

Your takeaway in this Venn Diagram of Purpose is this, get a pen and paper and write down your diagram. You already have the profession – Nursing. Now, fill the other gaps, what is it that you are passionate about? What would be your vocation? What would be your mission? Answering these will give you a better insight into your life’s purpose. It would clear your mind from the clouds of doubts that you keep on asking yourself why you choose this profession. It would make us realize that somehow, we made the right choice.

5 Pillars of IKIGAI

5 pillars of ikigai

Let’s now move on to the true form of IKIGAI. Neuroscientist Ken Mogi developed the 5 Pillars of Ikigai. In his book, “The Little Book of Ikigai” he wrote down these essential pillars of Ikigai:

  • Starting Small
  • Releasing Yourself
  • Harmony and Sustainability
  • The Joy of Little Things
  • Being the Here and Now

Ikigai’s basic concept is “reason to wake up in the morning” right? So, it talks about the things in our life that are ever so small but are important. Things that often go unnoticed because of our brain’s primal function to just focus on what’s wrong. . What we do not know is that these little things we do are the answer to living a purposeful and happy life. These things that go unnoticed are the answer to relieve us from the stressful events that happen in our daily lives.

Starting Small

Every journey starts with a single step. All milestones started with a simple action. Success is the result of little victories. We’ve all heard these things throughout our lives, but we do not know its true meaning because we put our focus more into the word journey instead of the single step, the milestones instead of simple action, and the success instead of the little victories. It’s in our nature as humans to go big on everything. And that particular mindset is always the reason why we never move forward into anything or we get stuck into a loophole if we do not accept that nothing big will ever happen if we do not start small.

Everything that is around us came from small things. Even your career started with a resume. Your profession itself started with a classroom and a clinical instructor teaching you The Fundamentals of Nursing (TFN). Everything comes from simple and small things. We often forget this, because of where we are today. As we reach higher status in life, we often overlook the little things that we need to do for us to be able to march forward in our lives.

We always want to leap into the bigger things in life but it will not be possible without ever starting small again. Just because we are here now, wherever it is we are in our stages in life, doesn’t mean that we are not going to start small in the things that we want to do. Re-learn how to enjoy the little victories again, and you will appreciate life more. When was the last time you felt happy changing the IV fluids of your patients? If you can remember, back at nursing school, when we change the patient’s IV fluid, it was like winning the lottery right? Because we felt like we did something phenomenal. Cherish the small victories again and you’ll see how big an impact it would do to your life.

Releasing Yourself

Ever had the feeling that you are not yourself? We sometimes feel like it because we cave in to the pressure of society that we try to mold ourselves into fitting whatever description they want us to fit in. Eventually, we slowly lose our true identity and we start to hate ourselves for not being true to ourselves and there’s no one to blame but us. As confusing as it may sound, it is what it is. This is what happens when we seek validation from other people. But how can we expect them to be real when we tweaked ourselves into faking our identities to fit theirs? To make it look more simple, we need to start accepting ourselves for what we are.

Nonetheless, people will never stop judging other people and that’s part of human nature. Thus, if you are to be judged for whatever it is you do, why not choose to be judged by being who you are? That way, you’ll be able to be true to yourself. We don’t need to judge ourselves for what we are, there are already a lot of people doing that for us and we don’t need to add burdens in our shoulders. Let’s learn to accept our true selves and let go of the illusionary self that we invented to fit the ideals of others. That’s the way that we can release ourselves to the world and accepting what the world will throw at us.

Harmony and Sustainability

Harmony talks about how you are synced with your environment. If you are detached from your environment, you’ll find it very hard to get through your day. Humans are social animals, and we are also a part of an ecosystem. Hence, the thought “no man is an island”. Because it is innate for humans to interact with what’s within the environment. And within the environment are people and the society at large, living harmoniously with these variables is what will result in a sustainable life. We are aware of this on a physical level, in a way that we need to get something from the environment like air, water, and food to sustain life, yes, but on a psychological level, we overlook it most of the time. For us to stay healthy mentally, we need to have a harmonious relationship with the people around us and the society at large.

Sustainability, on the other hand, is not only a relationship between humans and nature but also our relationship with other people. We should be mindful of our actions and their effect on the people around us. These actions, big or small, will have an effect on all the things around us, the environment and the people that live with it. If we are more observant of these things, we will find that we are more than just a body that wakes up, works, and sleeps. We are much bigger than that. We play a vital role in this world. By simply realizing the effects of our actions, we can be more aware and responsible.

The Joy of Little Things

When we wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing we do? Brush our teeth, make breakfast, have coffee. These are the usual things that we do, right? When we do these things, it gives us dopamine to keep us going through the day. I believe that one of us has experienced waking up late and rushing through the workplace, and it felt very horrible because we didn’t have our kick of dopamine.

Now, let’s rewind it. When we wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing we think of? Most of the answers will be nothing because our brain is still in the trance or there’s just nothing to think of in the morning because everything is automatic, it became a routine, wake up, coffee, breakfast, office. But the crucial part we are missing is the fact that you were never assured of waking up in the morning in the first place – and still, you did. But you didn’t think of that. And you never did think about, what if you never wake up again? No more coffee, no more breakfast, no more work. See, the joy of little things starts from the moment you wake up. Because no soul was assured of ever waking up the next day, but still we wake up; isn’t that something that we should be happy about and we should be thankful for? That there’s another day where we can make ourselves coffee or eat breakfast, and kiss our families?

The joy of little things is what will save us from the hardships of life. When stress is wearing us down, let’s not forget that there is always something worth celebrating and worth smiling for. Even if it’s just waking up in the morning.

Being the Here and Now

Being the here and now in my understanding is making something for yourself that makes you happy, but no one understands, or even cares about. It is the weird concoction of spices that you mix with your chicken or the way you eat your bread or drink your coffee.

It is the things that you only know that makes you happy inside. And as the book of Ken Mogi says, it is more than enough to carry on with your life. Don’t ever let go of these things just because they’re weird or not normal. Who cares if it is not normal? As long as it makes you happy then do it. The moment that you start prioritizing your happiness instead of money, or whatever it is you prioritize, will be the moment that you will truly live your life. And as selfish as it may sound, you will find that the decision of being happy is the best decision you will make for yourself, your family, and your career.

End of the Bargain

In life we all have choices to make everyday. We decide on hundreds to even thousands of calls on a daily basis. And we do it again and again and again. It’s okay to feel tired at some point. It’s okay to be angry about the routines that you keep doing. But it all crumbles down to how you look into things. It’s all about perspective. The Venn Diagram and the IKIGAI, these are just tools to give you a sense of direction in where you want to steer your wheel in this life. At the end of the day, it’s still all up to you to decide whether you move towards positivity or keep dwelling with the negatives.

This article was written by MA. Daulog a registered nurse in the Philippines.

” My goal is to engage nurses into pursuing the profession in whatever fields they may want to take. I want to enlighten nurses that this profession is a calling that not many are able to handle. This article serves as a guiding light to all those medical workers who feel the stress weighing down their shoulders. There is always a way. There is always an answer.”

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