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Patrice Tanaka, 67: Live Your Purpose

Author, thought leader and serial entrepreneur Patrice Tanaka is creating a more joyful planet by helping others find their life purpose. She discusses how living our purpose can be an antidote to fear, the healing power of dance, and choosing joy.

This week, being the end of summer as we are beset with what feels like a tsunami of uncertainty, we revisit the magical Patrice Tanaka. Anxiety levels are at an all-time high; loneliness, fear and a loss of meaning are tormenting so many of us. This seems like a perfect time to check in with our always smiling, wisdom-filled, dancing wonder that is Patrice Tanaka. At a time like this, what we could all use is a more joyful planet.

There is so much change happening in the world today, people are scared. What are your thoughts on how people can become less frightened?
I believe if we are living our purpose, it will focus and drive us to accomplish what is most important to us in life. Being productive and leveraging our talents, expertise and passion in service of other people and our planet is a great way to forge a positive and joyful path rather than simply worrying about terrible things happening in the world and feeling vulnerable and frightened. Being internally driven by our own life’s purpose and making a difference in the world makes us stronger and less easily prey to other people and their agendas. 

“I believe if we are living our purpose, it will focus and drive us to accomplish what is most important to us in life”

Have you adjusted Joyful Planet since we last spoke to take into account all these new challenges we are feeling?
No, I haven’t changed the work I’m doing through my consultancy, Joyful Planet, to help individuals and organizations discover and actively live or operationalize their purpose.  If anything, I am doing more of this work because the past year of pandemic, racial injustice, riots, and insurrection have caused people to rethink and re-evaluate their lives.  Organizations, too, are trying to support their employees, members, students, etc., to better navigate these challenging times by helping them discover their life purpose and live more meaningful, successful, and joyful lives.

Joy is not something we hear a lot about. How are you spreading joy in the world?
Joyful Planet is both the name of my consultancy and my vision for the planet of 7.7 billion people living their life purpose and leveraging their talents, expertise, and passion in service of other people and our planet. This is how together we can create a more joyful planet. Much of the work I do is about helping individuals gain greater clarity about the impact they want to make in the world by helping them discover and articulate their life purpose. 

“Joyful Planet is both the name of my consultancy and my vision for the planet of 7.7 billion people”

Here are some inspiring life purpose statements I’ve helped people craft in the past year:

  • “My purpose in life is to make wellbeing at work a basic, global human right.”
  • “My purpose in life is to connect women to their power to help them succeed and invest in their ability to build businesses that positively impact the world.”
  • “My purpose in life is to build on the conversation of equity, inclusion and belonging to help create systemic change and the opportunity for everyone, especially diverse people, to achieve our biggest goals and dreams.”

One of these individuals told me his life purpose was “a reason to get out of bed every morning.” Yes! This is the power of purpose to focus and drive us to accomplish what matters most in our one very brief and precious life.

Dancing Classrooms

You became an enthusiastic dancer in midlife. What role do you see dance and movement playing in helping people become more joyful?
As James Brown once said, “The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.” I totally agree! There’s something about shaking and moving our body to music that makes us feel better almost instantly. There’s a lot of research on the healing power of dance.  I’m a trustee of a wonderful non-profit called Dancing Classrooms, which uses the vehicle of social dance to unleash social, emotional, and cognitive learning in children and, in the process, helps them achieve greater confidence, connection and collaboration with others.  And, importantly, helps children unleash their joy! So, as James Brown also said, “Get Up Offa that Thing!”

How do you help people discover their purpose? That seems like such a huge question for so many people.
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve always been focused on efficiency. To help people discover their purpose, I developed an 11-question My Life Purpose Questionnaire. If respondents answer each question as fully as possible and from their responses write the first iteration of their life purpose statement, I can help them finalize their statement. In doing so, I tweak, edit and polish up their statement so it is accurate, inspiring, and galvanizing – the hallmarks of what I consider to be the hardest-working, hardest-driving life purpose statements.

What is the value of knowing your purpose?
If you don’t have clarity about your life purpose, you can’t live it and accomplish what is most important to you in a highly efficient way. People often think that they’ll “bump into their purpose” and be able to live a fulfilling and joy-filled life. They might and they might not. I believe that making time to discover your life purpose so you can begin to actively live it – sooner rather than later – is the single most efficient and powerful way to unleash our leadership potential and greater success, fulfillment, and joy. 

“You live your life purpose in every area of your life — not just through your job”

What if one’s purpose is not aligned with what one is currently doing. Are you then confronted with a fear of change?
People have told me that they were afraid to discover their life purpose because they might have to quit their jobs to live their purpose and then how would they pay the rent or mortgage. I explain to them that you live your life purpose in every area of your life – not just through your job. But you can’t live your purpose in any area of your life if you don’t know what it is.

So, it’s important to discover your life purpose so you can begin to live it even if you can’t live it fully through your job… at first. When you discover your purpose, I would then challenge you to figure out a way to live your purpose in some way through your work and in your personal life. Frankly, I would be more afraid of never living my life purpose than unleashing greater success, fulfillment and joy in my life.

Favorite way to center yourself?
Because my purpose in life is “to choose joy, be mindful of joy and share joy with others,” I count all the joyful events in my life every day. This is a very centering exercise that helps me to be mindful of all the joy in my life. It’s easy to focus on the “un-joyful” events of the day so this is an important way for me to stay focused on joy.

“I count all the joyful events in my life every day. This is a very centering exercise”

Favorite guilty pleasure streaming show?
OMG. Too numerous to name. Some of my favorites include “Call My Agent,” “The Bureau,” “Fauda,” “Hit & Run,” “Shtisel,” “Making the Cut,” “Emily in Paris,” “Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace” (an 87-episode Chinese drama!).

What music are you listening to recently?
Depends on my mood and what I’m doing. When I’m walking the hallways to get in my steps, I like to listen to rap music. If I’m chillin’, I love ’70s soul classics, Cesária Évora, Bebel Gilberto, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Buena Vista Social Club, Carlos Nakai, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, sometimes opera – Puccini and Verdi.

The best thing you discovered in NYC this last year?
My neighbors. They’ve been wonderful. We’ve gotten closer. We shop for one another, prepare meals, bake and have dinner together. Getting closer to my neighbors has been one of the joys of the pandemic for me.

 

Patrice Tanaka is a best-selling author, public speaker on business and life purpose, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of three award-winning, PR & Marketing agencies and the consultancy, Joyful Planet, focused on helping individuals and organizations discover and actively live their purpose to unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in their personal lives, workplaces and communities.

Patrice is the co-author of the best-selling books, Beat the Curve and Performance360, where she writes about life and organizational purpose. She is also the author of Becoming Ginger Rogers…How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO, a book about her late-life passion for ballroom dancing that resulted from her discovering and actively living her purpose, “To choose joy, be mindful of joy and share joy with others.”  

She has lived in New York City for most of her adult life, but calls Hawaii “home” and she is committed to living her life with the “Aloha Spirit.” You can reach her at:  Patrice@JoyfulPlanet.com or LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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AUTHOR

David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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