Finding Self-Discovery and Motivation

Understanding what you truly want and finding motivation can be a profound and meaningful topic. Many people may go through their entire lives without knowing their true desires. Some spend their lives searching (similar to protagonists in Haruki Murakami’s novels), while others, like Ivan Ilyich in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” start with a clear goal and steadfastly pursue it.

Around the age of twenty, I earnestly pondered the meaning of life and how to identify what I truly wanted. Questions like where we go after death often haunted me at that time. However, there was a moment of clarity that suddenly illuminated my path, a feeling that remains vivid in my memory. Despite numerous moments of doubt thereafter, wondering if my choices were right, I’m fortunate to have stayed true to the convictions I held at twenty—at least in the broader sense.

Occasionally, I encounter friends who feel lost, unsure of what to do or what they truly desire. It reminds me of a book I read and my job-seeking experience in Japan, where two contrasting approaches—starting with the beginning and starting with the end—made a profound impact.

Starting with the Beginning

In 2019, during my job hunt in Japan (where job hunting starts a year in advance for fresh graduates), I encountered a memorable interview, particularly from one company. I vividly recall the third round interview with a junior supervisor. A few days before the interview, HR sent me a resume template and asked for a handwritten copy. As I read through the final section of the template, I suddenly felt perplexed—it posed a question I had never encountered before.

What was the specific question?

It prompted me to recall experiences from elementary school to the present, detailing memorable moments (both joyful and challenging). I then plotted these experiences on a graph based on their impact over different periods, creating a fluctuating curve. Positive experiences were marked with + and negative ones with -. Initially stumped, as I gradually recalled and plotted more points over several hours, I began to gain a clearer understanding of my preferences. It wasn’t until later that I realized the brilliance of this method: using past feedback to clarify what you enjoy, what you excel in, in a straightforward manner.

On the day of the interview, I confidently shared this graph with the interviewer. Though it didn’t immediately clarify what I truly wanted, it was a pivotal moment that helped me understand my past preferences, dislikes, and the reasons behind them.

Starting with the End

The first time I encountered the concept of “starting with the end in mind” was in the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The second habit begins with this scenario:

Imagine you’re on your way to a funeral, attending the memorial of a loved one.

Picture yourself driving to the church, finding a parking spot, and stepping out of the car. As you enter the church, the scent of flowers mingles with organ music. You see many friends along the way. Viewing their faces, you understand the pain of losing a loved one and share in their memories of joy. Arriving at the foyer, you suddenly realize that friends and family have gathered to bid you farewell—you’re attending your own funeral. Perhaps it’s several years or even longer in the future, but let’s assume relatives, friends, colleagues, and community members are about to speak about your life. You find a seat, read the funeral program in your hands, and await the start of the ceremony.

There are four speakers. The first is a family member—possibly your children, siblings, or grandparents. The second is your best friend, someone who truly understands you. The third is a colleague. The fourth is a clergy member or someone from a community organization you were involved with.

Now, seriously think about how you want people to evaluate you and your life. Are you a competent spouse, parent, child, or friend? Do you want them to judge your character? What achievements and contributions do you want them to remember? What kind of impact do you want to have on the lives of those around you?

I remember a Japanese drama where there was a similar scenario—a death exercise that made people cherish the present more and clarify what they really wanted and what was most important.

I often think about what kind of evaluations I want when I’m old, what kind of looks I look forward to, and what kind of person I want to become in the future. When you encounter some insoluble things at the moment, think about these, there will be a feeling of openness, and you afraid


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