CreativeMornings Rotterdam: Finding Purpose during a Pandemic (Or Any Other Time)

Every other email I receive lately is an invitation to an online webinar of sorts. Maybe I did this to myself, but there aren’t many I’m very interested in attending. When I saw, however, that CreativeMornings was doing their April session online about purpose, I was more than happy to register.

The CreativeMornings Rotterdam edition about purpose was online, but was definitely one of my favorites! Read more at

5-Year Anniversary for CreativeMornings Rotterdam

The session started with a small celebration for CreativeMornings – the Rotterdam chapter has been hosting events for five years! The chapter leaders introduced themselves and talked about what the organization means to them.

Everyone had great stories and reasons for joining, but I believe Iskandar Bwefar said it best: “It’s nice to know that people are struggling with the same stupid stuff that you are.” While this is relevant at any time, it felt especially comforting to hear at that moment.

Katya Stepanova: Epiphany Catalyst

Hailing from Tscheboksary, Russia, Katya has lived in various cities throughout the world, and currently resides in Amsterdam. She’s passionate about self-development and leads a self-reflection session every Sunday for journaling.

And that’s primarily what we did during the CreativeMornings session: we journaled to find our purpose. Or at least, we took the first step in finding our purpose. If we could simply find our purpose over the course of 20 minutes, I feel like we’d all be much farther along in our journeys.

She talked about Ikigai, a Japanese concept for finding the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at, and what you can be paid for. In other words, it’s like a roadmap for finding purpose.

She asked us questions about those four pillars of Ikigai. When we finished answering them, she asked us to fill in the blanks with our answers:

I love [something you love doing] and I’m good at [something you’re good at]. I can get paid for [something you make money doing] because the world needs [something you feel the world needs].

As part of the CreativeMornings exercise to find purpose, Katya had us answer questions about what we can be paid for and what the world needs.

She called this the hypothesis. Usually she conducts a more in-depth version of this exercise, but it was enough to get us thinking. We don’t often think about ourselves and our purpose this way.

I wrote:

I love writing letters and I’m good at communicating. I can get paid in marketing and communications because the world needs a more open approach to innovative solutions.

I’ll admit: I was a bit surprised with myself that I could construct that sentence. It hasn’t quite changed the way I work yet, but it certainly sheds a new light on my work and how I approach it.

Now that we had these hypotheses, we had a Q&A session with Katya to figure out what we’re supposed to do with this information!

What’s the difference between what you get paid for and what the world needs?

I loved this question because it really speaks to how we think of purpose. Katya explained it this way:

  • You’re paid for skills and professions.
  • The world needs solutions to problems.

It doesn’t feel like a profound statement, but it’s certainly thoughtful and succinct.

Why does getting paid have to be related to purpose?

This is a tough one to grapple with, especially for people who work in creative industries. But Katya had a great and honest answer: it’s the reality of our existence.

She references Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and explains that without security, we can’t achieve anything else. Part of the complete exercise is to find what keeps you going in every sense: emotional, physical, spiritual. And in order to keep surviving, income is part of that.

I’ve spent so much time focusing on being good at what I’m paid for – how do I redirect my passion and my skills?

The gentleman who asked this question explained that he’s spent years being good at his job, but it doesn’t make him happy. He knows that he can make the change, but he didn’t seem be sure how to do it.

Katya recommended that he ask some friends to write a hypothesis for him: to let someone else define what he loves, what he’s good at, what he can be paid for, and what the world needs. They may offer a view of himself that he can’t see.

Better yet, she suggested that he ask a stranger! With a minimal amount of information about him, they may be able to offer truly unexpected insight into who he should be.

Katya Stepanova leads journaling sessions to help people guide their self-development. This one was based on Ikigai, a Japanese concept for finding and defining purpose.

Get to Know Someone New at CreativeMornings

After offering her answer to the attendee, the group offered to create a hypothesis for the gentleman. That’s the magic of CreativeMornings: when you’re motivated to join a group of strangers for a short seminar early on a Friday morning, you’re likely to have a few things in common already, which can make their insight that much more impactful.

Want me to write about your open approach to innovative solutions? Let’s talk!

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