Translated it means “life’s purpose”. It is a holistic, altruistic way to see more meaning in your life. Ikigai is also about finding joy, fulfilment, and balance in the daily routines of life. In other words, it is a guiding force.
The Japanese island of Okinawa, where Ikigai has its origins, is said to be home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. Studies have shown that people with a greater sense of purpose live longer, sleep better, have less strokes and less depression. Let’s get a piece of this magic girls, let’s do our Ikigai as a priority.
Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements. In Ikigai nothing is siloed, everything is connected.
This beautiful four petalled flower head sums it up. Your life will be far more beautiful and rewarding with your Ikigai in place.
The exercise will require you to document your thoughts in a secure area of your computer. The visual side of this will be a treasure map for the next 12 months which is discussed in the next section in this chapter.
My first experience of having a life’s purpose was when at aged 16 I knew I would never be a professional golfer, my initial focus for the previous three years. I simply was not good enough. Besides, I realized after working in a golf professional’s shop, on a school sponsored job experience, that as a career it had no future, and I would be bored. Shortly afterwards I knew that I wanted to be an accountant as it was like getting a passport, that I wanted to obtain qualification through the degree route and needed desperately to get out of Reading which back then I saw as a prison. Getting to University, a task which was easy for some, was made difficult as I am dyslexic. There was no extra reading time during exams, no special quiet room, or a reader /writer sitting next to me. The only way I was going to be one of the rare pupils from my school that made it to university was to be totally focused on studying, often saying ‘No’ to my friend’s invites to the pub or card games.
How to get started on your Ikigai map
From the study I have done I would recommend the following steps.
- Write your life’s purpose as you currently would like it to be. A story with you in it. What you want to achieve, what differences you want to make, what legacy you want to leave. You will need to rewrite this at least once a year and eventually be able to say it with conviction in a 20-second elevator ride. The more altruistic it is, the more you picture it, the more it will become a reality. The key to this process is that it will help you break free from any self-defeating cycles of negative thinking. The future story will energise you to take action in the intended direction.
- Make plans to start your journey while in your current situation. The experts suggest you start a side-hustle, to gain some skills. You actually have more time than you think if you cut down on TV and other escapism activities and utilise the hours from 6-8 AM and 6-8 PM.
- List what you love to do (your passions), and what talents you have that could be turned into remarkable strengths (your vocation). I have a section on ascertaining your talents so this step should not be too difficult. You now have two parts of the puzzle worked out. Your future lies in doing something you love to do and that utilises your talents.
- Now to start the search, if necessary, to finding that job that suits you better. I have a section on this so you are not alone on this journey. In the meantime, start thinking about what meaningful work you can do that will reward you adequately and be in the general direction of your life’s journey. Now you will, after time, start to get closer to that type of work. This journey takes time.
- Attend a course and learn through others to ensure your life’s purpose is robust. To find a course search Ikigai + workshop+___________ (the city you live in or the nearest one).
- With your Ikigai now break the direction you want to go into a series of goals that you attend to achieve in the next 12 months. I call this a treasure map, and this is explained in the next section.
How to stay true to your Ikigai map
To stay true to your Ikigai here are ten simple things that have been suggested by a collection of writers.
- Update your Ikigai every year along with your goals in your treasure map.
- Invest time in mastering time management, especially working in the non-urgent but important quadrant, embracing abandonment, and learning to saying no to activities that are sharing your Ikigai pathway. See the relevant sections on these points.
- Only eat until you are 80 per cent full. This appears to be a Japanese way of eating. Being overweight will seldom find its way on to your Ikigai map.
- Develop hobbies, interests and organise social events so you are surrounded with friends who are also on a ‘life pathway’, albeit different to yours and who are joyful to be with.
- Embrace some form of daily regime where you get some gentle exercise. As well as the obvious health benefits, it will be an activity that is consistent with your Ikigai and thus helping reinforce your self -regulation and self-control.
- Smile and acknowledge people around you. It is interesting to note that a human being is wired to return a smile.
- Reconnect with mother nature. Be like your Auntie and hug a tree. Smell the roses, close your eyes and face the sun, let a sunset envelop you. You know what I am talking about.
- Give thanks to anything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive. I like to sing the Who’s “Love rain on me rain on me when I enter the sea, especially when it is cold or raining. See the YouTube clip of the song from film ‘Quadrophenia’.
- Help strangers, write letters of appreciation, help organise gatherings of your neighbours or local community. Studies have shown that ‘random acts of kindness’ to others strengthen the well-being in the person performing the act.
- Every week review your treasure map and undertake those tasks that you can do that week. This will ensure that you are on your Ikigai.
An extract from Don’t Say I Never Told You