On The Concept Of Ikigai

Following up on the post of reason for getting out of bed, I started to think about what are the ingredients that fuels our life.

The life we are leading, is it rewarding? Does our job gives us a sense of purpose? Do we have something to look forward to every morning?

Sometimes, it’s inevitable that things don’t always go our way. We all have bills to pay, mouths to feed and montage to settle. But, take a step back and think really hard what really gets us out of bed. Life loses its meaning when we have little to look forward to. The monotony of weekday’s work is offset by the eventful weekend’s activities. That little motivation drives most of the working class people to their offices daily, besides the mandatory task of working for the pay cheque.

On some days (rainy nights especially), I tend to get sentimental as I look through the window as memories of the good times enjoyed with buddies would come knocking. It was vivid. Fast forward to today. Friends come and go. Classmates of yesterday are now busy with their own lives – be it climbing the ladder of working society, starting their own family or struggling to make ends meet. Everyone moves on. As we are harden by external influences, we become weary of others’ intent and a defensive barrier is being erected. The relationships we have now with our acquaintances may well be shallow. It’s about networking in our hyper-connected world as opposed to building a meaningful friendship.

We can learn a lot from Japanese culture, specifically from Okinawan. To get an idea of how they live is to get an insight to leading a fulfilling lifestyle. Their culture is based on simple needs and close knit relationships with family and friends. It has been proven that when we have closer ties with our loved ones, we tend to feel less isolated. We have more avenues to share our joys and sorrows and therefore, we are less likely to feel depressed. Social interaction is the binding element that brings us together, and the Okinawan does it better than most.

As we age, we tend to drift further apart from our close friends.In a recent survey, an average American has about 1.5 close friends, compared to 6 for Okinawan. When we have relationship that withstand the test of time, bonds strengthen and trust deepens. I can imagine it’s a wonderful feeling, knowing that you have a pillar for support in time of need.

There is no secret to longevity. Longevity comes to those who doesn’t seek it. When you have a meaning in your life, it takes on a life in itself.

There is this talk by Dan Buettner – How to live to be 100+

It’s definitely worth spending 20 minutes of your time on this short talk. For those who are time strapped, let me do a quick summary.

Akin to the Marslow’s hierarchy of needs, this is a chart that serves as our guide to physical and mental well-being. In the hierarchy (I shall name this Ikigai-chart) is this term call “Right Outlook”.

Dan touched on a little on downshifting and having the right purpose. Knowing when to downshift and finding the right purpose will be the guiding principle in whatever we do.

Downshifting: Knowing when to do so will allow us to recharge our battery for the long journey ahead. I like to unwind at the end of the day by doing passive activities – reading books and magazines, listening to music, watching shows. It’s a way for me to relax after the day’s work. I always evaluate if work is taking too much of a toll on myself, my family, or triggering a behavioural change. At the end of the day, it may be wiser to take a step backwards to move two steps forward.

Have the right purpose: Take a walk around the central business district area and you can see many zombies floating around. In the morning, the crowd consists mainly of aimless souls. Looking into their eyes, I see no passion and real desire to get started. They are merely going through the motion of getting to work and heading off back home when the time comes. The contrast between someone motivated and eager to start off the day and someone who’s really can’t wait to knock off is strikingly obvious.

I know I wouldn’t want to be like one of them. The zombies. The disease can be infectious. Once it gets into the head that it’s fine to be living life this way, we convince ourselves and justify the reasons for them. The people around us are likely leading the same lives and we rub off one another that it indeed is fine.

It’s absolutely vital that we recongise what we like to do. I always ask myself this question. “Can I see myself doing this for the next few years?”. If the answer is a resounding no, I know it’s time to seek a new challenge. Our passion may change over time, life may throw us some unexpected circumstances, but we must always listen to our heart.

Do something you always want to do. Listen to your heart.

So, what’s your ikigai?