To love and lose is better than not loving at all. The same applies to the work that you do. Do you love it? Does it make your eyes light up with passion? Are you able to completely be immersed in it while doing it? Is it your purpose? If not, then take this article as a cue to move your focus towards your ‘Ikigai’.
This Japanese concept has done a few rounds and gained some popularity over these years. It is formed through the combination of the two words ‘iki’ – ‘life’ and ‘kai’ – ‘the realization of what one expects and hopes for’.
Roughly looked at as one’s life’s purpose, the understanding of it provides an outlet for one’s spirit to be expressed. The life of Okinawans in Japan is based on the essence of Ikigai. A study upon the extended lifespan of its residents would reveal how great an impact intentional fulfilment of one’s purpose has on one’s health and happiness. We all have reservoirs of energy that we tap into while we’re enacting our joy. This reservoir has an enormous capacity to have miraculous effects on our body and soul. Apart from having anti-ageing properties, one may consider it as an antidote to modern life.
There are four aspects which upon integration provide a gateway to understand one’s ikigai. Exploration of one’s self and opportunities are very important in figuring out these aspects. One must take some time to sit with themselves and think over the following questions.
What do you love to do?
What is it that you can keep doing for hours and hours without getting tired? What gets you fired up and all excited? It can be anything. Do not hesitate while penning down these activities as it will only provide an insight into what is it that draws you.
What are you good at?
What are the skills or activities that you feel you have a certain mastery over? It can be something you love or it can be something you don’t like doing at all. Just write down whatever it is that comes to your mind upon asking this question.
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What does the world need?
This aspect integrates the utility of what you choose to do with regards to the outer world. Answer this question by writing down whatever it is that you feel the world needs. One of our major drives as biological humans is that of problem-solving. When we identify a problem and realise to work through it in our manner, the results tend to be immensely satisfying and play as a motivation for us to do the work.
What can you get rewarded for?
While answering this question, list down whatever it is that may provide you with the ease of survival. Something that may remunerate you sufficiently for you to explore and live life without getting stuck into the rut of your workload. This aspect covers the practical part of ikigai where you look at things that may give you a financial backbone.
After having answered all of these questions, take a look at ideas that best satisfy all of these aspects. It’s imperative to apply your creativity in this process as you are tailoring something that is the best fit for you. Each of our purposes is present in our being in such a way that any instance of us being aligned with it will be reflected by our feeling of joy and ease while doing it.
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Wabi-Sabi is another Japanese way of looking at the world. The essence of this perception lies in deriving beauty from what we may regard as imperfect. It is moulding your lenses to appreciate what you wouldn’t at the first glance for you need nuance to understand the perfection of imperfection. It is taking in the earthiness of an object for what it is. Could we shun the beauty of a flowing river based on how bent it is or how many uneven rocks does it have? Then how can you do the same to anything you create? What flows through you and comes into being may be regarded as a product of nature. The uneven and unpolished appearance of one’s creation reflects its beauty rather than diminishing it.
This concept works beautifully in moving through the common but delirious block of perfectionism with regards to one’s work.
The Ikigai Diet
Stories of the lives of 100-year-olds of Okinawa cannot just be credited to the philosophy of Ikigai. There is more to an extended life-span than diligent work through the heart. It is the internal mastery of one’s external outlook, a healthy social life and an adept intake of nutritious food that enables one to keep their bodies vital.
The diet of an Okinawan is specific to locally available superfoods which are eaten unprocessed. Key foods include – beans, sesame seeds, vegetables, seaweeds, fish, mushrooms, fruit, tea and potato. While food is an essential component of the ikigai diet, the custom through which it is consumed is as important. Food is served on small plates and nothing is left to waste. Utmost respect and gratitude are shown to the food consumed before and after every meal. This practice provides a holistic approach towards consumption and opens up the body to gain maximum benefit from the food.