This Japanese word (pronounced ick-ee-guy) is said to have been born out of the island of Okinawa and is your personal reason to get out of bed every morning. Everyone’s ikigai is their own and beats at the center of where your reason for being rises. This is thought to be the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you are paid for. Within these paths reside passion, mission, vocation, and profession. Having uncovered this term has really sparked such a deep ah-ha for me. I’ve been trying to find everything I can to read more about it. I feel like an archeologist digging. I have bumped up against something that resembles a discovery that I’ve been looking for, finding a name for this faceless experience. I feel an overwhelming calm understanding as I continue on this dig, motivated to stay the course and to appreciate what ikigai can teach me.
When we were children and if you ever listen to your young children talk about their dreams or explain their play, the imagination is incredible. I went for a nice evening stroll a couple of nights ago with my 8-year-old and at first he said, “this is so boring” (which by the way is a huge pet peeve of mine), so I asked him to tell me about something he had imagined lately. It did not take him long and he was describing this incredible building with many rooms, similar to a school, but each contained a very unique experience. He continued on to say that he would like to live in this building someday and that every night he would choose to sleep in a different room. The top two favorite rooms he described for me were the marshmallow room equipped with hover boots to not get stuck to the floor and the room with hydraulic-robot-riding-machines. It was all utterly fascinating to my boring brain and before long we had walked nearly 45 minutes without noticing because I had so many questions and he had so many answers. How’s that for flipping the table? When did I stop imagining like that myself?
Digging to China
My sister, Jess, and I used to dig for China. I think we overheard adults talking about this facetiously, but we didn’t know that. We thought that it was possible and that we could do it. We had small shovels and a determination that matched any professional excavator. If I close my eyes and conjure up our conversations over this adventure and remember the thoughts that surrounded this idea, what smacks me in the face is that we never once thought it was impossible. The world we live in as children has nothing to do with the practical, but completely in the fantastical. Can you remember how boring adults seemed when you were a kid? I do. I also recall feeling inconsequential and small in the presence of a group of adults. Everything always seemed so serious. There was worrying about the weather, political races, the cost of food, or whether the laundry got folded. “Who cares?”, I thought. All I had to do was pick up a shovel that was going to take me to the other side of the world and maybe even by lunchtime. I wonder what the other side of the world looks like? Will the composition of the dirt change at some point and become more Chinese somehow? Whatever that meant! I think Jess and I thought about snacks and water, surely packing those in a backpack – but in our minds, home was never going to be too far away. All at once we were going to be safe with all of our needs met, but also on the most unpredictable adventure of our lives.
We never made it to China. However, I never remember that we beat ourselves up and belittled our efforts for being irresponsible and short sighted. Day after day, we dug. Day after day, we got tired and moved on to something else. Eventually we threw the shovels down and started building a castle with the dirt instead. I believe that at that young age, just like the dream that my 8-year-old shared with me, we are more in touch with our ikigai. I had a reason to get up each morning that gave me purpose and a mission that pulled me forward. When I didn’t reach China, I still found a way to hold on to that purpose and shift it slightly. The dirt castle was a fortress that Jess and I played in for many, many days. It was dirt and weeds, but in our minds, it was the most beautiful creation that ever was. We truly saw the possibilities and that is all. Now, as adults we find a profession, a vocation, that may also be aligned with our purpose – but sometimes not. Sometimes we settle and forget to dream. We get so caught up in the mundane routines and the logistics of managing our day-to-day lives that one day we wake up dreading the act of getting out of bed. We think, “what for?” What for. What are you getting out of bed for? What is your reason for being?
The all important YOU
There are 7.5 billion people on this planet. You are one of them. That may seem inconsequential, especially considering all the additional stuff that makes up our universe and the galaxies far, far away – but isn’t it also humbling? To have a chance to be here in the time that you are is nothing short of a gift. A gift that we get one chance to execute, once chance to exist, to BE here. If you are overwhelmed by this and want to run and hide instead of feeling excited and empowered to live fully through your being, you are not alone. It is truly scary and thrilling all at once. Kind of like riding a roller coaster or going through a haunted house. It is not uncommon to seek out experiences that provide us both. Perhaps that’s because our DNA code knows that this journey of a lifetime is going to take both.
More uncovering of ikigai to come soon….