Every January people seem to jump in and make resolutions of all kinds. Usually to only find that the strength of their resolve is not what they think it was. I believe that identifying your motivations is the key to any life change. Motivating yourself to make changes in your life is and should be a slow but steady process. Forming new habits and patterns for our lives requires more dedication than just a pronouncement. It takes having a foundation and a map for getting to where you want to go. Perhaps it also takes a compass to help guide you on your path.
I have been juggling this issue in my own life for quite a while now and recently stumbled onto a book that has presented such a map and compass. I share this philosophy with you today in hopes that you too will be able to apply it in your own life in a meaningful way and discover your own potential and happiness.
I have a tradition of each year picking a word or idea to be my inspiration for the year. This year the word found me in a book I happened to pick up at a bookstore. The word is “Ikigai”.
Ikigai translates roughly as “the happiness of always being busy.” Let’s pause here on the word “busy”. This philosophy is not about filling your life with meaningless tasks or overwhelming work.
Ikigai is about finding your life’s purpose and stepping into that place where you can reside and be productive, happy and at peace. Breaking the characters down literally translates to “life – to be worthwhile – Armor (to be first into battle or taking initiative as a leader) – and finally, beautiful or elegant”
The book I mention is called “IKIGAI –the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. While the book looks at longevity at times a being the motivation for seeking your ikigai, for myself that is not as relevant as the literal map it provides in a very easy to understand Venn diagram. Ikigai is not one thing but many things coming together to give our lives meaning , value, context, direction, happiness and peace.
Four intersecting circles show how each of these areas work together to not just help you identify your ikigai but also once you understand your ikigai help you to see how your ikigai fits into and affects other places in your life. This is not quite as simple as filling in the blanks but it has served me as a way to ask myself some questions and to analyze my own life in a way that I can identify imbalances and weaknesses that have been blocking areas of joy and happiness.
One way to identify the core of your own ikigai lies is to look at those activities that you do that you get utterly lost in. Those things that make time stop existing in your mind and that your mind finds most contentment. The ikigai we all likely share as anglers is time on the river fishing. We can find ourselves lost in the action to the point that we forget to eat a lunch some days. Any time we find ourselves lost in peace and joy is a good indicator that you are working through your own ikigai.
As I mentioned before the book seems to have some focus of appealing to westerners seeking longevity in life but the message and lessons of ikigai are still at the center of that. I believe it is a western ideal that puts the destination ahead of the path. This said there is a lot to be gained in reading about these areas of the book as well. Ikigai can have positive influences as well on all aspects of your life. It encompasses living with intent, passion and a mission to serve the world with your existence.
I hope to discuss my own process of exploring my own ikigai along the way in this new year. Ikigai is not so much what we do but how and why we do it. The journey of seeking and living into your ikigai is exciting and mind opening. I have already started the year off pretty well by picking up my practice of meditation and improved diet. I am examining how I live, make a living and interact with the world. I am able to look at my many facets of self, the projects that I want to work on and the people I want to be an active part of a community with.
It is important to start any journey by removing all distractions that can arise and take you down those old paths that havn't served you or your life. With the exception of announcing this post I am not participating on Facebook or social media. Instead I am revisiting the things in my life that make me feel whole and engaged with my world.
I can recommend this book highly as a great insightful way to approach making your life better and more meaningful. The information inside follows examining the lives of people in Japan who live to be 100 years old or more. This involves not just the lifestyle they live but the diet and mindful awareness of thier lives.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.