This morning, like most other Saturday mornings, followed my typical ritual: large glass of tap water, morning medications, brush teeth, shower, collecting an armful of leafy greens from the garden and enjoying breakfast and a cup of tea with my wife. Living in Australia allows us to enjoy the early morning sun on the verandah at most times of the year, but especially now that Spring is in full swing. We chat about the week we have just had and what needs to be done on the weekend. One might say that we are not dissimilar to most other couples that have two or more teenage or preteen children, a mortgage, demanding jobs, significant debt and few opportunities to sit and chat during the rollercoaster life we lead.
After our breakfast and chat my wife goes inside to do some work and I pour another cup of tea, listen to the birds in the back garden, check my emails and social media messages on my phone and read some of the articles that appear on my various feeds. I smile to myself about the volume of inspirational posts I see (and read), but also reflect about my (our) own current situation in life and pros and cons of the choices we have made. After my third cup of tea I generally get up, clean the kitchen, put the first load of laundry on (after sorting the dirty clothes into piles of priority, with uniforms and underwear always the first to go in the machine), and then disappear into my office to work myself.
Today’s social media article reading was not dissimilar to most others, plenty of people telling how I should live my life like Sir Richard Branson, the late Steve Jobs, Deepak Chopra or James Altucher (all of whom I follow on my LinkedIn account, so this is not really surprising), but then I came across one article written by Nikesh Lalchandani entitled ‘Technology and the Pursuit of Happiness‘, which, after I read it a couple of times, I shared with the comment ‘Thank you’. Why?
Firstly, I had not heard or cognitively registered the word Ikigai. Yes I had probably heard the word over the years, and was fully aware of the general meaning of it: “a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.” (derived from iki, meaning life and kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations), but it was not a word that had stuck in my consciousness before. Secondly, I was struck by a sense of connection with what Nikesh was saying – not the technology aspect of the article, but the concepts of life and happiness. I had been saying to other people for a long time that one contributing factor to long life, good health and happiness is doing what you love everyday or, as Nikesh quotes, “part of the reason for their (the people of Okinawa) long life, is that everyday they wake up, they have a reason, their Ikigai”. Lastly, I looked at the diagram from the book Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, and it made so much sense to me. Wow!
Nikesh explains that many of us we start our lives on the outer rim of one circle and, due to a desire to satisfy other needs, we try and spiral into the centre “Ikigai”. Many of us (myself included) do indeed spend much of our lives on the outer rim of each of these circles, skirting past the overlapping parts of other circles, but never really diverting off that path to that flower-shaped area towards the middle. We may try to get there but the path is not clear (or easy).
I have admired other people at many times in my life. I love wildlife, so I grew up wanting to be Sir David Attenborough (I’m not alone there I am sure), and he is now 92 years of age and still doing what he is passionate about for his profession and has been on a mission to make the world a better place because of it! I also admire many other of life’s ‘achievers’, including Sir Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra and James Altucher, as mentioned above, each of whom have achieved a similar Ikigai. Steve Jobs had lived much the same way too I am sure. But I have no desire to be the founder of an airline or computer company, or be a ‘spiritual’ doctor. I have no desire to be a chess-master either. None of these people have had the same life experiences as me, been influenced by all of the things I have been, have the same life situation I have or have all of the same skills/tools/desires that I have. They are themselves and I am ME (although my Buddhist meditation classes and readings makes it really unclear what I actually am, but I am getting closer to understanding it a little better!).
The above Ikigai diagram has now been drawn on my office whiteboard and I have started creating my own lists about what I am GOOD AT (writing, photography, educating and managing people, business guidance, public speaking, etc.), what I LOVE (wildlife, nature, music, red wine, dark chocolate, etc), what I get PAID FOR (writing, business consulting, IT consulting, technology implementation and software design, training, etc) and what the WORLD NEEDS (‘Love Sweet Love’ – well, that’s a bit simplistic, but we all need to find the pathway to health, happiness and an enriched and contented soul, and I can help people find wellness through diet, social theraphy, ecotherapy and photography).
So ‘Thank you’ Nikesh for providing me with one of the tools and the inspiration to find what I am really PASSIONate about and where my true PROFESSION, MISSION and VOCATION lies. Perhaps I will arrive at my Ikigai, time will tell, but I know that my journey has started towards the centre of the flower.