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Finding Fulfilment


An introduction to dharma

Over the festive break, one of the books I was dipping into was Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. One chapter on ‘Purpose’ was of particular interest. In this chapter, Shetty introduced the concept of dharma. His closest approximation to a translation is that it is combining (i) your passion & skill with (ii) what the world needs and serving others. “When you spend your time and energy living in your dharma, you have the satisfaction of using your best abilities and doing something that matters to the world.” In this regard it reminds me of the Japanese concept of Ikigai which I’ve written about before (read here).

This can clearly be applied to your career. There are two signs that you might not be living out your dharma. Firstly, do you only get excited when people say nice things about your work? This could be a sign that you’re not passionate about it. Secondly, are you indulging your interests and skills but nobody is responding? This could mean that you’re living your passion but without purpose.

Finding your dharma

Shetty shares a couple of useful exercises for how you can find your dharma. The first is to ask yourself a series of questions which I’ll replicate here so you can have a go:

  • Do you like your job?
  • Do you love your job?
  • Are you good at your job?
  • Do other people need and appreciate your work?
  • Is your greatest skill or passion outside your work?
  • What is it?
  • Do you dream of making it your work?
  • Do you think this is an attainable dream?
  • Do you think there might be ways you could bring your passion to your work?
  • Write down any ideas you have for bringing your passion to the universe.

Separately, he then goes on to share four personality types (varnas) which identify your true nature and competence. The four varnas are: the Guide, the Leader, the Creator and the Maker. In brief, the Guide is compelled to learn and share knowledge, the Leader likes to influence and provide, the Creator likes to make things happen and the Maker likes to see things tangibly being built. No one varna is better than the other and all four varnas are needed in the world to work side by side.

Whilst the book has a questionnaire to help you identify your Varna and fuller description of all four Varnas, you may already have an idea of which varna reflects your true nature and inclinations.

Living your dharma

When you are living your dharma you will feel alive, positive, comfortable and consistent. You will experience feelings of flow. It comes from the heart but frequently the head can get in the way (I’m too old to change, I can’t afford to do this, I don’t have time, it won’t work for me).

My favourite point that Shetty makes about the dharma is that it’s your responsibility. Don’t wait for your manager to recognise your dharma or to take time out to ask you if you’re truly fulfilled. You need to step into it: “When you safeguard your dharma, you constantly strive to be in a place where you thrive. When you thrive, people notice and you reap rewards that help you stay in your dharma.”

In conclusion

As you may be able to tell, I enjoyed learning about dharma. It gives us another lens through which to examine what gives us meaning and purpose. I am looking forward to incorporating this into my coaching and digging deeper into this area. I would recommend the book as a good read with some good concepts, ancient wisdom and philosophy.

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