Having just returned from a leisurely holiday, it’s not unusual to feel a little bombarded by real life on return. Walking back into the ‘have-to-dos’ as well as the ‘want-to-dos’ can feel overwhelming.
Suddenly, I feel like I don’t have enough time again.
Whilst I was away it seemed that time just stood still. I had endless amounts it, even though I was away for less than a week. Yes, granted some of this time away was spent with my nose in a book lazing by a pool. But for the most part I was exploring, spending time in nature, learning about new things and being fully engaged with the people around me. I was even engaging in some work-related reading, but was enjoying it all the same.
I was spending more time doing what I wanted to do, whenever I felt like doing it. I was being more of my true self; I was in my zone or in my ‘flow’, as some people might like to call it.
But isn’t it true that modern life seems to be tearing us further away from our true nature? We are doing more of what we are told to do, more of what others are doing and spending less time doing what we truly want to do.
We’re distracted by external forces on a daily basis and looking outside of ourselves to bring meaning to our day. Society luring us to post, click and compare to feed our ego.
This is not the path to happiness nor longevity. In fact, it can lead to a lot of stress, regret and ill health.
Ikigai is the Japanese term most often translated to mean “a reason to live” or “reason for being”. The Japanese are the front-runners in terms of longevity, particularly on the island of Okinawa. They have the highest life expectancy of any country in the world. In addition to a healthy diet, longevity in Japan is closely tied to its culture, and a strong component of this is ikigai.
Once you discover your own ikigai, pursuing it and nurturing it in some capacity every day will bring meaning to your life. As tempting as my reading by the pool for a short stint was, it means a little more than that. It is something that can give meaning to your daily life. Then you make sure you are doing it, each and every day.
For some people it might be their work, or a particular component of it. For other it might be caring for people in their life, tending to their garden, looking after animals or painting.
One thing that everyone with a clearly defined ikigai has in common is that they pursue this passion no matter what. It’s not just done when life is going well; it is part of their daily life, they engage in it regardless of what is happening. In this sense, ikigai contributes to resilience, that ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off when going through tough times. It prevents you from being carried away by the emotions that result from the environment around you.
There is no one size fits all strategy for connecting with ikigai – because it is personal and unique to you. But how can you easily find it, if you don’t know where to start?
When you wake up in the morning, write down all of your ‘to-dos’ for the day. They could be people you have to see, work you have to do, events you need to be at, jobs you need to complete and tasks that have to be done.
Notice the ones that you enjoy doing. These are the ones you probably naturally gravitate towards; you look forward to doing and where time stops when you’re enjoying them. These are the activities that energise you.
These are the ones that are more likely to contribute to your ikigai. So you need to be doing more of these every day.
The remaining items on your to-do list, are the ones that you need to either remove completely from your life, or if that is too extreme right now, then change somehow. These are out of your flow, and need to alter in some capacity.
It’s probably time to be embracing your ikigai. It will always guide you to exactly the right place.