Personal branding: Finding your why with Ikigai

Personal branding is a deep subject matter. This article assumes you have a basic understanding of the topic but isn’t going to wax lyrical about the obvious benefits for both your own career and your business. Nor will it recommend the channels through which you can project your personal brand into the wider world. Getting sharper on LinkedIn is kind of a given.

Instead, it takes a step back to look at crafting the foundations of personal branding – your personality, your values and in particular your purpose. It then looks at how you might need to tweak tactical messaging for various audiences without compromising authenticity.

Shaping personality

Whether you like it or not, you already have a personal brand. It’s out there. And the bit that will be sticking out like a sore thumb is your personality. A brief conversation or social media interaction might not reveal your vision or purpose but it’s quite likely to showcase the set of human characteristics that shape your personality.

Authenticity is key – you are who you are – and you shouldn’t try to change that. But do consider that not every aspect of your personality is appropriate for every single situation so do consider how you dial up and dial down certain stuff. Views on sports and politics are cited as areas of potential caution and can risk alienating audiences within seconds. But that aside, be yourself and people will love you for it.

Personal brand values

Forging personal brand values

We all need values to manage our lives. They expedite decision-making, especially in tough situations and help you forge lasting relationships with those around you.

Values are important because they act as a set of rules and guidelines and determine your attitudes, choices, actions and behaviours. If personality is your veneer and the first touchpoint of your personal brand, values are cemented deep within. They should be your non-negotiables.

If the way you communicate (visually and verbally) reveals your personality then the way you act will say a lot about your values. For example, are you reliable? Do you always do what you say you will and when you will?

Establishing purpose

The toughest consideration. But finding your why will help everything else flow seamlessly thereafter.

Phil Jones, Managing Director of Brother UK is a huge advocate of helping others to understand their purpose:

“It’s a journey to establish your purpose and takes a lot of thinking and reflection time. When you figure it out, then everything changes.”

Journey is the key word as I rarely see this being a eureka moment. Phil, like myself, has significant experience to draw upon and quite often life can be an ongoing exercise in trial and error to refine your true purpose. Finding out what you excel at and what you enjoy doing is as much about discovering what you are bad at and what you hate doing. Even at 42, I’m learning about this all the time.

Conveniently taking a cue from the country of origin of the Brother UK business, I actually think it’s the Japanese who have nailed this personal branding topic as I adore their concept of Ikigai.

Personal branding ikigai

Ikigai (see diagram) comes from the words ‘iki’, meaning life and ‘gai’, meaning value or worth. It’s about feeling your work makes a difference to other peoples’ lives. The intersection of what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. Doesn’t it sound like the sweet spot we all strive for both personally and professionally?

Start the ball rolling by maintaining a list of things you do well and do badly. Use external feedback as a barometer to dilute the importance of your own self-awareness. Gauging enjoyment is a simpler process, whereas understanding if something has the potential to provide an income will probably require further research or even taking a punt! Personally, I think that if you are very good at doing something that enriches other peoples’ lives and actually enjoy it, there’s very likely a thriving career in it.

Once you understand more about your personal brand then whether you should be enhancing your social media profile, ramping up your content strategy or even writing the book should become much clearer.

Start your personal branding journey today and use the Ikigai diagram to help you.

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