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Have you found your Ikigai?

Someone introduced a new word to me recently, Ikigai. It is a Japanese concept meaning, “a reason for being.” It's made from two Japanese words: iki, meaning “life” and kai, meaning “effect, result, worth or benefit.” The past three years had been challenging for me; I knew I needed to move in a whole new direction, but the doors were not opening up for me. Even if they were, it wasn't the place that was meant for me. So, I waited and I kept going, updating and sending out my resumes, talking to people, going for interviews. Interviews can be nerve wrecking but the positive thing is you will never know if the job and the organization is meant for you until you speak with them, find out their values and their ethos. I wanted to do something aligned with my studies, to find work which is meaningful, and fulfilling and resonates with my calling. I do realize that there are some of us who do reflect on these questions from my conversations with them, and it did take me by surprise and made me wonder. Was I missing something, or was I not contented? Perhaps they are already in their own calling that it never occurred to them to ask that question, or perhaps they just have a simple view of life, work and retirement. I wouldn't know and I am not satisfied with that answer should that be me.

So, how would you find your Ikigai, your life's purpose?

Ikigai is the combination of passion (what you love or enjoy doing), vocation (calling), profession (work), and mission (task given to you - God-given task). Basically, it's when what you love meets what you are good at, meets what you can be valued and paid for, meets that which the world needs, like the attached picture on the top. It is similar to choosing the job that you love, being paid for it but feels like you are not working because you are enjoying what you do and not forgetting that you have to be good at doing it ;)

Ask yourself this question:

  • What do I love?

  • What am I good at?

  • What can I be paid for?

  • What does the world need?

I came across this which I thought was useful. Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist, advises us to focus and incorporate on what he labels as the five pillars, in the first couple of hours after you wake up. This is to get yourself motivated and to get your brain accustomed to this way of thinking:

  1. Start small - one step at a time

  2. Accept yourself - love yourself

  3. Connect with the world around you - socialize

  4. Seek out small joys - gratitude

  5. Be in the here and now

As you set some time aside to work on the 4 core questions, and practice these 5 "virtues", consider journalling your answers. Revisit the answers a month, six months and a year from now. Has anything changed. We cannot expect to find our Ikigai overnight; it can take years and it can change from time to time. I have found mine now and I know it will change when the time comes. Whatever it may be, be open to the possibilities and go with the flow. If you are feeling stuck, try something new - a new hobby, learn something new, meet new friends, join a club to meet a new "tribe", try doing a freelance by the side to see if it fits you. Whatever you do, don't give up.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman


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