Summary: This article reflects my life when I was retrenched in 2016. I struggled to find meaning until I was fortunate enough to find a coach that helped me identify my values holistically. Discovering my values is like using gold to mend the pieces of broken pottery. If you are in a hurry, here are the key pointers.
1. Identify your values. Your values are the foundation on which you build your life on. It gives meaning to what you do.
2. Engage coaches who can help you consider your life goals from a wholistic perspective–what you value, what you are good at, what you can give back to the community and what you can earn a salary from.
3. Be patient with yourself. The journey in discovering what works for you is not found within a day. Give yourself time to reflect and build upon those reflections to create a solid foundation.
Rebuilding my life post retrenchment is like mending broken pottery with gold. It is like the Japanese art called “Kintsugi”–“Kin” meaning gold and “tsugi” meaning to join. “Kintsugi” means golden joinery, where powdered gold is used to repair the cracks and is used to hold together broken pieces of pottery.
This reflection is my story of finding meaning in life, and I hope you enjoy reading this.
In 2016, when the oil prices plummeted, many projects were at a standstill. As a result, I could remember seeing employees spend more time gossiping at the pantry on how the future is going to be like. Nobody dared to utter the word “Retrenchment” for fear it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Intuitively I knew it was only a matter of time that I will be retrenched. Within the next few days, my manager called me up for a conversation. The HR manager present with my manager meant it was an exit interview. As I braced myself to face the bad news, I was certain I was not listening to anything that she was saying. The only thing I could remember was a name card to contact a career counsellor who is experienced in handling retrenchments.
By the end of the day, I shredded confidential documents, emptied my cupboard, and took the cab home. Being at home over the next few months took a toll on my mental health. Unresolved guilt in failing to be a breadwinner led me to develop Major Depressive Disorder.
During this period of depression, I could not perform simple tasks such as getting out of bed. I knew I needed to get a job, however; I found that rewriting my CV was daunting as you have to be specific in writing certain keywords to be detected by the algorithm used by HR. I felt tired tailoring my CV to suit the job description that I applied for that I gave up altogether.
I was certain that I wanted meaning and purpose in my career and I began a google search the two keywords “meaning” and “career”. At face value these two ideas seem to be mutually exclusive. It suggested that you can have any job but it will not guarantee you any satisfaction. The only benefit of a job is a salary and nothing more.
I looked through philosophical articles concerning the purpose of existing. I read the works of Soren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus and found myself more depressed in the lack of direction until I came across the concept of finding your Ikigai.
“Ikigai” in Japanese means reason for being and it is the intersection of what you’re good at, what you can be paid for, what you love and what the world needs. My previous career lacked a purpose, and I felt empty most of the time.
I addressed the feeling of emptiness when I was going through the question, “What will my regret be if I were to die today?”. The answer to that regret was the inability to leave a legacy and to be remembered as someone who advocate for others. Finding that answer was key in addressing the emptiness I had with my previous career.
Who knew that a simple question on regrets on your deathbed holds the missing piece in my search for meaning. These values that I hold dear proved to be the gold that joins the broken pottery of my life together.
Right now, I am in a better place where I am a writer with a social enterprise. I find great joy in crafting content that has a mission. I hoped this life experience of mine will help you.
Guest writer for Growthbeans, J.Wong
Resources that may help you find meaning in your career