Discovering My ‘Ikigai’

Steph Beringer, Occupational Therapist Advanced Practitioner, NHS Lothian@StephBeringer1

The Perfect Combination of Ready to Act, Quality Improvement, Leadership and Relationships.

The idea of writing a blog personally terrified me. Thoughts running through my head were ‘Where do I start?’ ‘Who will read it?’ ‘What will others think?’ Along with balancing ones of ‘Every day is a school day!’ ‘I will never know unless I try!’ And ‘Go on this can be your digital stretch!’

With the seed planted and now worrying how to organise my many thoughts I came across a concept that made me stop and think – ‘Ikigai’. The infographic below was shared with me as part of a parent group dicussion, around learning and supporting our children in choosing meaningful careers and occupations…ping my lightbulb moment happened!

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means ‘a reason for being’, indicating the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Away from my most obvious source of value which are my loved ones, my career as an Allied Health Professional (AHP) and occupational therapist working with children and young people and their families is my passion, vocation and mission.

Joining the pieces.  The last 3 years of work have felt like missing pieces of a jigsaw have been found and my picture is slowly emerging. Ready to Act, (Scotland’s AHP children and young  people’s transformational plan, Scottish Government 2016), becoming a Scottish Improvement Quality Leader (through the ScIL national programme), a new leadership role and moving with our team into a new base, developing a locality-based model of practice, has felt like my stars have started to align.

My passion.  Any of these opportunities in isolation would have further encouraged my passion, mission and vocation as an AHP. However, in combination they have started to give me a real sense of meaning of what a privilege it is to work as an AHP alongside children and young people, their families, schools and communities. To learn about what truly matters to them and how we as AHP’s can develop services to have early intervention, prevention, assets-based thinking, partnership working and collaboration, at our core. Meeting individuals and communities needs in a child and family-centred way.

Relationships really matter. Ready to Act speaks for itself in its ambitions, and further along in its journey I now appreciate how challenging and exciting realising these ambitions are. We have to work hard at true collaboration, to be able to work in partnership to develop services together. As an occupational therapist whose grounding is in a ‘biopsychosocial approach’ I have felt empowered to work across and develop relationships with those in healthcare, education, social care and the third sector, breaking down silos and working across agencies. At times ‘pushing the boundaries’ and challenging the status quo of ‘how things have always been done’ has required varying degrees of energy and resilience. This has involved many interesting and sometimes difficult conversations – all of which have offered great learning and reflection for myself as a practitioner and person.

Quality improvement is the perfect fit. What has further helped me on this journey has been entering the exciting and enlightening world of Quality Improvement (QI). Given that most improvement happens in practice and not on paper it has facilitated my realisation that as a team we can make changes, big or small. QI has given me the confidence and tools to understand our system, to question; Where are we going? How are we going to get there? And what next? As an occupational therapist truly understanding what matters to someone, what help they are seeking and what they want to change, grade, adapt, using activity analysis and an understanding of the person, occupation and environment is at our core. The Model for Improvement aligns so well to occupational therapy and AHP’s values. Therefore using this in practice to adopt the approach of “What are we trying accomplish?”; “How will we know that change is an improvement?” and “What changes can we make that result in improvement?” has been an easy fit and now guides my every thought and action, from individual interactions through to developing and ‘testing’ service changes. Who would have thought discussions around systems thinking, data and measures, driver diagrams, Paetro and run charts would have become part of my daily conversations!

My AHP leadership journey is ongoing and I have been lucky enough that this has not been defined by role, title or function…it has been the development of what I love and value. Aligning my own intrinsic motivations and values to the many values of our profession…being kind, caring, compassionate, empathetic and truly understanding others, listening to and learning from their stories.

Above all, as AHP’s and as a person the most powerful gift we have is to be connected with others. I would not be where I am if it was not for the opportunities being an AHP offers: being part of a supportive Quality Improvement network; working within a children and young people’s community, and others within our local community; as well as the local and national Ready to Act networks and forums. If I had not had great conversations, engaged with, and learnt from others, reflected from when things have gone wrong or ‘not to plan’ and continually strived to develop meaningful relationships, I would not have broadened my horizons, sense of value and learning.  

It is ‘what the world needs,’ ‘it is what I love’, ‘it is what I am good at’ and as an AHP ‘I can be paid’ for working in this professional role and vocation. Therefore, on reflection I am maybe on my way to finding my ‘Ikigai’.

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie, thanks for a great read and introducing me to a new model. As an OT working up to submitting my first blog you are an inspiration!

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