Friday, January 20, 2012

Ikigai-The purpose of your life

I recently saw a talk on TED about how to live to be 100+ by Dan Buettner ( I will post the link at the bottom in case you have a spare 20 minutes to hear this excellent talk). One of the things discussed in the talk was the concept of ikigai.

According to the Japanese culture everyone has an ikigai. Unlike the French, raison d'etre which can have a negative element if you are consumed by passion for the reason of existence to the exclusion of everything else, ikigai is thought to enrich and bring meaning to your life. It was cited as one of the factors that led to a long life, which makes sense. Having a purpose creates a sense of direction, of being needed.

Now lets switch gears a moment. Every morning our youngest addition to the family, gets up (she is only 9 months old). She doesn't hit the snooze button, she doesn't ask for 15 more minutes. When she awakes, she is fully engaged ready to face the day(or at the very least the next 5 minutes). My 3 year old can be a little surly when she wakes up, but once she is up the broadcast is " I'm up!" This broadcast is usually very loud at around 6 - 7 am. My five year old immediately wakes up with an agenda. The first question is" Where are we going today?" The next question is " Is today a holiday?" I have fond recollections of waking at 6am as a child to watch the Saturday morning cartoons. Much to my mother's consternation since I didn't manage this during the school week.
So what does this have to do with ikigai? Well, when was the last time you recall greeting the day with excitement and anticipation? At some point we ALL did. Then somewhere along the way we lost this excitement, this sense of expectation of what the day held for us. It slowly turned to a sense of dread and apprehension. Now we look forward to the weekend, we cant wait to get the week out of the way, we have lost sight of our ikigai.

When you are aware of what your ikigai is, everyday is a manifestation of purpose and of joy.
When I asked the question I'm sure you are asking by now, ( how do I find my ikigai?) I was told this; "What would you do each and everyday, no matter what, even if you didn't get paid for it, or any kind of recognition or external validation. What would you do just for the sake of doing it? When you can answer these questions-you are on your way."

So when you strip it down to its bare essence- ikigai can be ending world hunger or being the best parent. For each of us it will be different, no expression more valid than the other. The sad aspect of this is that many of us wait until it is late in our lives to go on this journey. So today as you read this ask yourself, "Why do I get up in the morning? What brings meaning to my life?"

It requires an investment of time, energy and deep introspection. Sometimes its hidden and sometimes its hidden in plain sight. Discovering your ikigai is always worthwhile. Why not start the journey now?

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

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