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Happy JUNE!

With Irene and family off adventuring in Asia, I am searching through her past Shasta Scout Columns to pull out some new nuggets of inspiration, according to Tessa :)

This one really speaks to me! Almost a year ago during my first meeting with Irene, the majority of what I could share was keeping me "busy" were volunteer efforts...I was placing value on tasks or teams that didn't truly align with my personal needs or values. All the work I've been doing with Irene since then has allowed me to sort through so much uncertainty as a newer business owner and has helped me to find new ways of giving back, without giving up on myself but instead truly finding myself.

STORY: How Finding Meaning Helps Find a Way to Give Back, in this opinion column, Salter coaches a local education leader who is looking for volunteer work which align with her passions and strengths.

READ MORE: Additional Resources. More on Finding your Values.

BOOK STUFF: Book Club and Book Update. Meet Brigid Shulte, NYTimes bestselling author of Overwhelmed! Thursday June 13 4PM PST

PODCAST STUFF: NEW episode! The latest episode This is your brain on beauty in Paris is live and I'm launching "Ask a Leadership Coach a Question" submit your questions!

GOING FURTHER: Additional ways to connect in the Inquiring Minds community


Inside Public Service

Between now and June 24, Irene is practicing what she preaches by making space to be with the people she loves most in the world, while traveling the world! Instead of a new blog post, I’ve pulled this article from Irene's column on Shasta Scout to share with you.

This story was originally published as part of my monthly Inside Public Service column on Shasta Scout. Would you like to receive free, nonprofit, independent and non-partisan news about Shasta County and beyond? Sign up here.

Here's wishing you spaciousness in your life, however you can find it!

Ed Note: This opinion piece is part of our Inside Public Service series which focuses on providing a window into the workings of government and public service, at a human level. Learn more about the series here.

Today, I’m speaking with Taylor, a local education leader who wishes to get more involved in the local community by taking on a new volunteer role in the community. She walks into my office with the kind of quiet self-assurance and big smile that’s perfect for making students feel at ease on the first day of school. She’s already won me over. 

“I have been thinking about what’s next for me,” she begins. “How can I give back in some way? I’ve thought through the many organizations I know in town. Some are fascinating to me, and some really tug at my heartstrings, and some I could provide a lot of value to. How do I figure out where to plug in? Do I just walk in and say, ‘I want to be on your board,’ or what?”

I tell her, “I always encourage people to start from a place of purpose and then look for the right match, not vice versa. If you know what matters most to you, it’s easier to find the right fit.” 

“That makes sense,” she responds.

I ask her if she has heard of the Japanese concept of ikigai. She has, but only vaguely.

The term ikigai is often defined as ‘a reason for being alive’ or ‘a life purpose’, but Dr. Kamiya, who introduced the term in 1966, claims that it’s not easily understood or translated from Japanese without lived experience.

Dr. Kamiya studied patients with leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease), a devastating infection of the nerves and body. She saw that some individuals remained hopeful despite the steady horrific progression of their disease. She described one patient who became blind but loved the stories she had learned to read in Braille. She mentioned another patient who lost her fingers but could only then truly feel the texture of the air and describe it in haiku. What’s special about these patients who continued to find hope and experienced deep meaning when life presented such massive challenges? 

Dr. Kamiya named that effusive quality ikigai, derived from two Japanese words: iki (生き), meaning ‘life; alive’ and kai (甲斐), meaning ‘value; reward; something worth doing.’ Having ikigai in practice means living day-to-day life, with all its ups and downs, with a sense of deep meaning, purpose, and a reason to live.

Taylor and I draw a Venn Diagram with three intersecting circles on a piece of paper. I label the three circles and explain that a person can often find ikigai at the intersection of three things: what I’m good at, what I love, and what the world needs.

I tell Taylor, “In this process, we’ll look for that central place where all of those come together. In that center is where you’ll find your ikigai. And you’ll realize that this is the thing that will truly fill you and help you feel like you’re making a contribution in a way that plays to the best of who you are. It won’t feel like work. It’ll feel like fun, like play.”

What I’m Good At

She’s eager and willing. So we begin with “What I’m good at.” These are your strengths, skills, and expertise. It’s the unique gifts that you bring to the table. 

Taylor starts off by listing several strengths identified through a Clifton Strengths Finder assessment she recently took. “Empathy and harmony are my one and two strengths. I’m such a feeler. And harmony–being able to find that common ground between different people or different parties. We’re all in the same boat, and it’s a good boat.”

I add, “You are one of those people who brings people together.”

“I love connecting people. I love coming alongside others and being behind the scenes as the number two.”

“Like a good first mate.”

“Yes. Exactly.”

With further conversation, she adds more and more strengths to her list. In addition to Strengths Finder, she draws from the things her best friends and husband say about her and from what she knows about herself. 

What I Love

Next, we turn towards “What I love.”These are all the things you love to do personally and professionally. They’re your passions and the things that naturally bring joy and fulfillment. They’re the things you would choose to do just because they feel good; no external reward needed.

I ask Taylor, “When you were a little kid, what did you love to do?”

“Um. When I was a kid… One of the things I loved was planning vacations and anticipating them. My dad especially loves planning vacations. It’s a year out, and you’re planning, you’re researching, you’re talking about it, you’re going over all the details. He and I would say to each other, ‘Let’s talk about vacation.’ Or perhaps we’d plan the Christmas party. It all comes back to planning and anticipating fun.” 

I ask, “If you could plan the perfect getaway, what would you do?” and “What’s the most fun part of work for you?” She fills that circle of her Venn Diagram with a big list of things she loves: teamwork, adventure, quality time, career exploration, and more.

Then, we look for where her loves and strengths intersect. “When you look across the two lists, what do you notice?”

Taylor jumps right in with, “Obviously, I see planning and connecting people.” 

“Great. What else?” I prompt. “It may not be specific words, but general feelings.”

“I think the ‘helping people feel seen and heard’ on my strengths list relates to ‘career exploration’ and ‘being with young people.’ Also, I didn’t write it over here, but ‘celebrating’ is something I both love to do and I’m good at. My husband says that’s something he loves about me.” We add a few more, like being a good first mate and helping realize a vision.

What The World Needs

Finally, we turn toward the last circle, what the world needs. We brainstorm and add dozens of organizations, projects, and causes to a list, anything that has ever caught her eye.

When there are nearly twenty things listed, Taylor observes, “It’s interesting. Making this list connects a lot of similar threads in my life. In so many things I’ve done, there’s young people and adventure, career exploration, planning, and fun events.”

We look at the center of her Venn Diagram, where “what the world needs” overlaps with “what she loves” and “what she’s good at.” I tell her to consider whether there in the center might be a “purpose or calling that’s been part of you your whole life.”

I explain that this would be something that lets you contribute to something way larger than you can do on your own. It is something that gives you the feeling of: this is what I’m meant to do on this Earth. It can take the form of a purpose statement, your ikigai.

We break out a clean sheet of paper, and Taylor tells me about what that purpose might be while I take notes. 

“I think I speak hope and truth into people about their abilities, opportunities, and strength so they can go out and pursue their hopes and dreams.”

The conversation continues for over 15 minutes, bringing up phrases like ‘be a safe place for people,’ ‘love people well,’ ‘help others say yes to possibility,’ and ‘celebrate life’s wins.’

After much discussion and wordsmithing, we end up with this statement: 

“To encourage, love, and celebrate people so that they recognize their potential and embrace adventure and opportunities.” 


We then use her ikigai statement to filter through the twenty organizations we previously listed. We think about which ones might offer the best opportunity for Taylor to live her life’s purpose. We cross off several, but the ones that stand out for sure are Nature Bridge, Lassen Park Foundation, and the YMCA. She leaves with a concrete plan for following up with each organization and a clear ikigai statement that will help her decide between the opportunities.

A recent literature review by Yasuhiro Kotera and colleagues at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom describes how people with ikigai have better health, less stress, less anxiety and depression, greater happiness, and greater psychological well-being. Here’s hoping that Taylor finds the same in her life as she directs her talents to make our world and our community a better place.


READ MORE: Additional Resources

Check out this finding your value tool on the website, which you may find helpful in identifying your values.

Take it further with Irene's “Making hard choices by leaning into your values” blog post:

If you haven't yet taken the VIA strengths survey follow the link and learn more about your personality strengths:

And catch this TED Talk with Simon Sinek on purpose:



EEEK! Total fan girl moment happening when Irene reached out and invited Brigid Shulte, NYTimes bestselling author of Overwhelmed to join our call and she said YES!!!

She’s an expert on how individuals and organizations can get out of overwhelm and have full, sustainable, and meaningful lives. 

Please join us, even if you haven’t read the book. Bring a friend. It’s free!

Whether you can make it or not, please feel free to send any questions you'd like to ask the author to

We will share her responses with email list subscribers!

Join us for June's call on Thursday June 13th from 4-5PM PST. Please send your email address to if you are not already registered to attend book club and would like to attend just this one.



PODCAST STUFF: New Episode! This is your brain on beauty in Paris

In this episode we visit Paris! We'll explore museums, chapels, and subway stations on an expedition to understand your brain on beauty.  Together, we'll learn practical ways to shift your perspective in order to find beauty even in the most mundane everyday moments. By understanding the neuroscience of beauty, we can understand how to find beauty everywhere.



If a chance to truly connect with yourself in nature sounds amazing, if you are looking to rediscover your values or passions, if you wish to connect with other experienced female leaders, then join the Heroine's Journey Leadership Retreat  in Mendocino this September. Glamping. Leadership development. Two exec coaches. Curated group.

And if you want longer term support to make leadership less lonely, theres still space to join the Collective Wisdom Leadership Circle.

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