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Conrad's Quest: Navigating the Labyrinth of Life to Discovering Ikigai – An Amalgamation of Cases and Conversations



As a coach and counselor, I often introduce my clients to an evidenced-based process to help them create their own mental health and well-being adventure. My goal is to collaborate by sharing key resources, guiding them as they discover strengths, values and passions, and then partner together in creating a meaning-filled and engaging project that addresses core concerns and needs. 


In this post, I provide an overview of the counseling/coaching process I initially guide people through. While Conrad is fictional, I have integrated elements from a number of true stories and cases, including my own, that highlight key features of my work with others. As I have mentioned previously, much of what I do and share here is rooted in well-being research, my own personal growth experience, and hundreds of conversations and interactions with clients.


My hope is that this gives you at least a glimpse into the coaching/counseling room and my own unique approach to collaborating with others. Each conversation and relationship takes on a life of their own, but this narrative explores the more common themes.



Conrad’s Quest


Conrad, a 29-year-old man, stands at the crossroads of his life, grappling with the desire to find his vocational direction and purpose in life while also navigating relationships and coming to terms with his sexual identity. In the chaotic maze of uncertainty, he hears whispers about ikigai—a Japanese concept offering guidance towards deeper meaning. Intrigued, Conrad decides to embark on a transformative journey, structuring his quest around the principles of ikigai and the narrative of the hero’s journey with the guidance of his coach as they meet on a weekly basis.



Session One: Embracing Your Story as a Heroic Journey


In the initial session of coaching/counseling, Conrad is introduced to the idea of viewing life as a narrative and a heroic journey. Drawing inspiration from Joseph Campbell's hero's journey (https://www.jcf.org/learn/joseph-campbell-heros-journey), he begins to see his experiences as chapters shaping his path to ikigai and deeper meaning. Challenges become transformative opportunities, and victories, no matter how small, are celebrated. Positive psychology (the science of how people flourish) also provides perspective and support for Conrad in understanding the pivotal role of a hopeful narrative in nurturing overall well-being.


Session Two: Unveiling Your Passions and Interests

Conrad delves into the genesis of ikigai—exploring his passions and interests. Research guides him to recognize the significance of engaging in activities he loves for overall well-being. Through introspection and the creation of a life list, Conrad identifies pursuits that evoke enthusiasm, make time fly, and infuse joy into his life. Considering his love for the outdoors, hiking, reading, travel, writing, learning, biking, walking meditations, small gatherings with friends, family, sports, helping others, Conrad drafts his first life list with the next season or chapter of his life in mind:


1.     Hike a Scenic Trail Every Month: I will explore nature regularly, experiencing the serenity of different trails and landscapes locally or on my travels abroad or across the US.

2.     Read 12 Books Annually: I want to foster a love for reading by devouring a diverse range of books, from fiction to self-help and everything in between.

3.     Visit a New Country Every Year: I love traveling to new destinations; a few on the top of my list include Iceland, Italy, Scandinavia, and Antarctica. 

4.     Learn to Play Pickleball: I plan to continue my practice of engaging with athletic activity and embrace a new sport while building connections through pickleball.

5.     Participate in Music: I’d love to focus on appreciating my musical interests and make room to go to a concert at least a couple of times a year. Would love to see Andrea Bocelli, Sigur Ros, Fleetwood Mac, Harry Styles, and Benson Boone.

6.     Write a Blog Post Monthly: Writing helps me focus and feel like I can give back a bit from what I am learning; so I’d to cultivate my interest for writing by chronicling my experiences, thoughts, and reflections on a personal blog.

7.     Start a Podcast: I’d also like to share insights, stories, and interviews on topics that matter to me and things I am observing about the world and my own development. As a part of this, I’d like to curate a collection of motivational podcasts that align with my interests in self-help and personal growth.

8.     Bike Across a Unique City: I enjoy biking and would like to combine fitness with exploration by biking through the streets of a new city.

9.     Practice Walking Meditations Daily: I want to integrate mindfulness into my routine, fostering mental health through regular walking and meditation without the distraction of my phone or media.

10. Host Monthly Small Gatherings: I want to strengthen connections with friends and family through intimate gatherings, creating lasting memories.

11. Plan a Family Reunion: Over the next few years, I’d like to bring loved ones together for a memorable reunion, fostering a sense of belonging and connection.

12. Participate in a Charity Sports Event: It would be great to combine my interest in sports with a charitable cause, participating in a sports event that supports a meaningful mission like the special Olympics.

13. Join a Writing Workshop or Retreat: To focus on my writing, I’d like to hone my writing skills by participating in a workshop, connecting with others as well.

14. Document Personal Growth Journey: I’d also like to maintain a journal to track personal growth, setting goals and marking milestones along the way.

15. Understand My Sexuality and Come Out: It would be great to be able to explore my sexual identify and come out to all of my loved ones this year. I’d also like to start dating more intentionally with the hope of finding a partner in the next couple of years.

16. Create a Vision Journal: I’d like to capture and chronicle my dreams for the future by crafting a visually appealing scrapbook that I could include as a coffee table book at some point.


After completing his initial life list, Conrad is instructed by his coach to identify a few items (highlighted in yellow above) that he could focus on over the next season of his life to begin to clue into his ikigai. Discovering and living in alignment with your ikigai is an iterative process that can take several weeks, months and even years. It often changes but can remain consistent over time as well. 


Conrad identifies a few items from his list that could be bundled or combined into a yearlong project to help him prototype and hopefully figure out next steps:


1.     Practice Walking Meditations Daily: I want to integrate mindfulness into my routine, fostering mental health through regular walking and meditation without the distraction of my phone or media.

2.     Understand My Sexuality and Come Out: It would be great to be able to explore my sexual identify and come out to all of my loved ones this year. I’d also like to start dating more intentionally with the hope of finding a partner in the next couple of years.

3.     Host Monthly Small Gatherings: I want to strengthen connections with friends and family through intimate gatherings, creating lasting memories.

4.     Create a Vision Journal: I’d like to capture and chronicle my dreams for the future by crafting a visually appealing scrapbook that I could include as a coffee table book at some point.

5.     Write a Blog Post Monthly: Writing helps me focus and feel like I can give back a bit from what I am learning; so I’d to cultivate my interest for writing by chronicling my experiences, thoughts, and reflections on a personal blog.

6.     Document Personal Growth Journey: I’d also like to maintain a journal to track personal growth, setting goals and marking milestones along the way.



Session Three: Unleashing Your Strengths

Identifying and harnessing strengths becomes a pivotal step for Conrad. Armed with insights from the VIA Character Strengths Survey (https://www.viacharacter.org/surveys/takesurvey), Conrad is made more aware of his inherent character strengths. Conrad’s top five include:

1.     Creativity,

2.     Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence,

3.     Love of Learning,

4.     Honesty, and

5.     Curiosity.


Research reinforces the idea that aligning pursuits with strengths not only enhances well-being but also fosters a profound sense of accomplishment. The more we use our top strengths, the happier and more successful we will be in achieving our intentions (https://www.viacharacter.org/topics/articles/research-points-two-main-reasons-focus-strengths).


Conrad’s coach encourages him to select one or two strengths that he can lean into as a part of his quest to figure out his life, help him with life list items, and live according to his ikigai. He decides to focus on creativity, love of learning and curiosity, which all seem to be closely related.  He also acknowledges that honesty is key to his goal of coming out more fully to friends and family.


Conrad considers how he will use his strengths in a yearlong, ikigai project. He bounces ideas off his coach and brainstorms possibilities.  He plays around with his top life list items and whittles them down to three buckets – meditating and walking, connecting and coming out, and journaling and blogging. His coach encourages him to refine his ideas into two or three intentions for the year that could also guide him in creating more specific plans.


Through questions from his coach, Conrad also thinks about how he will use his strengths to help him accomplish his ideas around meditating, connecting and writing. He determines to use his creativity and curiosity to come up with a set of experiences and practices that can facilitate his efforts to build these three intentions into his routines. 


He also remembers his initial goals of trying to figure out his vocational path and purpose in life; these will be main themes for his meditation and reflective writing and perhaps his conversations with others too. 



Session Four: Clarifying Your Values

Conrad discovers that ikigai flourishes in tandem with core values. Through research and conversations with his coach, Conrad realizes that ikigai (or reason for being), extends beyond momentary pleasure. It encapsulates a deeper sense of meaning in life that comes from understanding and living according to one's values.  


As another coordinating point on his life GPS to help chart a path forward, Conrad completes an initial assessment (https://personalvalu.es) to help him rank his values against one another. Out of 62 personal value statements, he discovers that his top five core values are friendship, creativity, health, curiosity and peace. These results correlate with his previous assessment findings, which assures Conrad that he is in alignment with what is most important to him. He is on the right path. This fact provides support for his ideas around his yearlong project as it continues to evolve.


Through discussions, personal reflection and brainstorm sessions with his coach, Conrad’s ikigai project includes this next iteration:

1.     Writing a weekly reflection that captures my thoughts about my sexual identity, vocational calling, and sense of meaning and purpose.  I will research resources that can help me navigate this next phase of my life and put my reflections and key lessons into a blog that represents my journey.

2.    Walking peacefully and mindfully each day and focusing on various health, well-being and mental health. When possible, I will invite others to walk and meditate with me to strengthen my connections with others in a meaningful way.

3.     Connecting with key family and friends and being curios about their lives and stories, and also honest and vulnerable about my story. I would also like to form a small group of guys that I can meet with at least monthly to help me practice vulnerability about my sexual identity but also try to establish lasting relationships with.


Along with implementing these regular practices, Conrad establishes key milestones at three, six and twelve months to help him evaluate his progress and stay on track. He also envisions an end of year gathering where he will celebrate and commemorate accomplishments with key people.



Session Five: Nurturing Your Well-being Needs

The foundation of ikigai, living a life of meaning and purpose, is also supported by research on well-being.  Numerous studies on ikigai and mortality underscores the link between the science of well-being and life longevity. After reviewing the Keys to Well-being on UC Berkeley’s Greater Good website (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/key), Conrad identifies a few concepts that he can integrate as practices that will positively contribute to his mental and physical health, aligning with positive psychology and ikigai principles.


Conrad decides to continue his theme of discovering purpose and relies on resources from the Greater Good website to help him cultivate more meaning and also guide him to a healthier outlook and next steps in life and his career. He discovers the practice of mindfulness as well through his research and plans to learn more about this and try to incorporate it into his morning routine.


Session Six: Aligning with Your Personality

Conrad recognizes the crucial role of understanding his personality in assembling the ikigai puzzle.  After reviewing his personality test results (he is an INFJ), he reaffirms his unique preferences that help him in his role of advocate for others.  According to the test results, INFJ’s also “tend to approach life with deep thoughtfulness and imagination. Their inner vision, personal values, and a quiet, principled version of humanism guide them in all things.”  Reflecting on these personality traits, Conrad reviews his ikigai project idea to make sure that his plan is in alignment with his personality traits. He affirms that walking and meditating on his relevant learnings, writing and reflecting on what matters most to him in life, and conversing with a small group of close friends about meaning and personal values fits his personality type. 


Final Project Design

After a couple of months of meeting with his coach, Conrad has an initial plan in place to begin to address his concerns and align more fully with a sense of ikigai and greater meaning in life. He is more aware of his strengths, passions, values and personality preferences within the context of his specific heroic narrative. With the guidance of his coach, he has also come up with a title for his yearlong, ikigai project:  Conrad’s Quest: A Year of Finding Purpose, Connecting with Others, and Coming Out.


Conrad also modified his three intentions for the year to hopefully optimize what he is experiencing; he highlights key elements reinforce that he is indeed leaning into his strengths, values and personality traits for greater meaning, enjoyment and overall success:

1.     Research and Write a weekly blog that captures my thoughts about my sexual identity, vocational calling, and sense of meaning and purpose.  I will research resources that can help me navigate this next phase of my life and put my reflections and key lessons into a blog that represents my journey.

2.    Walk and Reflect peacefully and mindfully each day and focus on key health, well-being and mental health practices. When possible, I will invite others to walk and meditate with me to strengthen my connections with others in a meaningful way.

3.     Connect and Come Out to key family and friends; balance being curious about their lives and stories, and also honest and vulnerable about my story. I would also like to form a small group of guys that I can meet with at least monthly to help me practice vulnerability about my sexual identity but also try to establish lasting relationships.


Conrad's quest to discover ikigai is a perpetual exploration of integrating passions, strengths, values, well-being needs, personality, and the narrative of his heroic journey. Rooted in research-backed concepts, this dynamic journey evolves as Conrad grows. He learns to embrace the unique contours of his path, for within its twists and turns lies the profound discovery of a life abundant in meaning and purpose.


Embark on this transformative journey—contact me here to set up your initial 15-minute consultation. Your ikigai project awaits.

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