There are two types of people in this world – the ones who leap out of bed full of the joys and switch their alarm clock off straight away and then there are the ones who grunt, wipe the drool from their chops and then hit the snooze button continuously for the next 20 minutes.
If you’re the latter, then early morning slovenliness could be for a variety of different reasons – perhaps your mind is too active from a stressful day, maybe you’ve had one too many nights out on the lash and it’s catching up with you, or it could simply be that your motivation is at an all time low. You see having a purpose, having that feeling that what you’re going to do that day matters, well that feels good doesn’t it? But if you’re caught in the monotonous routine of getting up everyday to go to a job you don’t enjoy, doing endless thankless chores, feeling unappreciated, and just generally as if life is ticking on by in a ‘same story, different day’ kinda fashion, then it’s no wonder you’re not jumping out of bed everyday!
I guess no one truly knows the meaning of life and although we’re all after that illustrious deeper meaning, blindly stumbling through life on our quest for it, there aren’t many of us that can say we’re there…that we’ve found our purpose.
Unfortunately, I haven’t got some magic formula for you, jeez if I did I’d be a millionaire, but of course where there’s a wellness trend there’s a word, so let me introduce you to…
Pronounced ick-ee-guy (ha brilliant!), ikigai is a Japanese concept that loosely translates as the worth of your life, or the meaning of life.
It is believed that in order to discover your own personal ikigai you must firstly work out:
- What it is you love/what you are passionate about – whether it’s a person, something you do for fun, or work related etc.
- What the world needs from you/how you can make a difference – this is your mission.
- What it is you are good at/your skills – concentrating on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
- How you can afford to do it – establishing how you can fund whatever it is you want to do, either now or in the future.
And once you’ve worked out your grand life plan, only then can you have a go at converging all four of these key elements, to reach a balanced state of ikigai.
Phew, sounds tough right!?!
I mean I’m all for this self-discovery gubbins, but seriously that is going to take some long, deep and meaningful chats with myself to even begin to work out the answers to those questions. I guess in a way it’s like sitting down and making your own business plan for life, which is all well and good and I totally get how useful that could be, but in all honesty who really has the time?
Well considering ikigai is supposed to bring fulfilment, happiness and there are even claims that it will make you live longer, then perhaps I should give it a go…but how?
How Can I Find My Ikigai?
Now that we know the four combined elements needed for ikigai, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which we can help ignite our passion and zest for life. I’m not gonna lie, it’s all basically stuff we know we should be doing to stay fit and healthy, but sometimes it’s good a to have a kick up the backside isn’t it!?!
We all know how good exercise makes us feel, but sometimes we put way too much pressure on ourselves to reach a particular target, or to do a certain amount each day, or worst of all compare what we’re doing with what our friends, or even what complete strangers on social media, are doing. And that’s certainly not helping to achieve those ikigai vibes.
Staying active doesn’t need to involve sweating buckets on a treadmill for hours on end everyday, instead it’s all about incorporating activity into your daily routine. Think cycling to work, ditching the car and walking the kids to school instead, doing some yoga in your living room first thing, or even dancing around the kitchen whilst you bake, it is quite literally whatever floats your boat!
If you can figure out what form of physical activity you enjoy, then that’s what’s going to help get you out of bed in the morning, and most importantly it’s the one you’re going to stick at! The important thing to remember is that ikigai is flexible, it is ever changing and so what may be your ikigai exercise at the moment, may not be in a week, a month, a years time. Be open to change, be open to trying new things and be the best version of you. For me exercise is about getting outdoors and having a blast of fresh air to clear away those stressy cobwebs and have a good old physical workout in the process. But there are some days all I want to do is curl up and eat cake on the sofa. There is nothing wrong with that. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
OK so this one’s easier said than done, especially if you love food as much as I do, but if you can truly find peace with what you eat, if you never experience any guilt when you’ve eaten something that’s far from virtuous, then well done you because you are well on your way to ikigai.
Eating should be pleasurable, it should also be about recognising what your body needs, what makes it healthy and what makes it perform to its best. But it’s not all about the what, there’s also the small matter of when and how much. You see, many of us have become so disconnected with our bodies when it comes to food, that we no longer recognise the actual signs of hunger. We’ve become emotional eaters – we eat through boredom, stress, pain, guilt… do you see the pattern emerging? Yep, all negative emotions that result in us eating more food than we need, and often the food that is doing us the least good.
No one’s saying you can’t have the odd chocolate bar here or there, jeez that made me shudder even thinking of such a thing, but it’s all about finding your happy balance. I know, sorry, there’s the B word again! Embrace your inner child and be the person who licks the spoon or the one who puts their face in the mixing bowl to lick out the rest of the cake mixture.
Learn to stop when you’re full, only eat when you’re hungry and to make each mouthful count. Enjoy the textures and tastes of your food and never, ever, ever restrict. If you restrict certain food types, you add restriction into your life and that my friends is a food prison sentence right there. As your relationship with food strengthens, you will start to fall back in love with food – and this time for all the right reasons.
Now I know what you’re thinking… “Keep busy! As if we have chance to do anything but be busy!” and trust me I hear you. But bear with me as I’ll get on to you busy bees in a mo, because for now I’m talking about retirement. Early retirement seems like the ultimate dream doesn’t it? A chance to do anything and everything you’ve always wanted, without a care in the world and answering to no one. Ahhh bliss… yeah maybe for the first few weeks or maybe even months, but what about after that when all you’re doing is sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for Loose Women to come on everyday!
When you retire, it’s all too easy to lose your purpose. Suddenly you don’t have goals, targets or deadlines to meet, there’s no monthly appraisals, no one’s relying on you and there’s certainly no sense of development, achievement or pay packet for that matter. Keeping busy needn’t be about running yourself ragged, no it should just simply involve keeping your mind and body active enough so that it doesn’t start to deteriorate. And obviously we can’t keep working forever, but there are lots of things you can do to keep yourself busy once you have retired from work, you just need to work out what those things are.
But Slow Down
And then in complete contrast to me telling you to keep busy, I’m now also going to tell you to slow down… well I didn’t say this ikigai lark was gonna be easy!
It’s not so much slowing down so that you stop entirely, it’s more to do with ditching the sense of urgency and embracing a slower pace of life, one that flows in a much more happy go lucky, take me as I am, the world’s not going to end if I don’t get this done by today, kinda slow. I guess you could call it learning how to not sweat the small stuff.
You know when you’re doing something that you’re so incredibly passionate about, that you become completely and utterly absorbed by it, to the extent that the minutes simply whizz by and you don’t even stop and think about how hungry you are – yeah I know, I mean super super absorbed by something! You become oblivious to everything else around you, which in turn means you forget about day-to-day stresses, and focus entirely on the task in hand. And it’s that state of flow and concentration that can lead to ikigai, because you’ve found your passion, your thing that gives you meaning, drive and, well ultimately it makes you happy doesn’t it!
Sharing experiences with others is one of the greatest joys in life and it makes you realise that you’re not the only one going through some of the crappier moments in life. It’s so important to only surround yourself with good friends, the ones that matter, that get you, that would help you out in a crisis, that cut through the BS, and unfortunately this is something that generally comes with age and experience. Life is one big lesson, so treat every friendship as such. Some are keepers and will last the distance, some may only work for moments of your life, and others will prove toxic and need to be ditched asap.
Ikigai will come from your own personal development and how you interact with others, because it’s not just about the people you know already. What about the social interaction you have with complete strangers?
Be the person who smiles and acknowledges other people around you, because honestly it makes a difference. Smiling is contagious, it radiates like a warm glowy ball of happiness and can make all the difference to how a person might be feeling. Such a simple act, but one that will leave everyone feeling positive and perhaps most importantly, noticed.
Continue to Learn
As children we are continually learning, whether it’s through what we’re taught at school, how to behave socially, or tasks such as tying our own shoelaces, childhood is the most developmental learning curve of our entire lives. And as we age, this curve begins to droop – we become less curious about the world, we question less and we stop noticing the small things. Instead we become bogged down with responsibility, routine and real life, making us blind to the things we once thought were amazing and restricting our ability to see opportunities in everything.
But can you remember how good it is to learn something new? To tackle a new challenge or experience? And that feeling of accomplishment when you reach an end goal? It feels flippin’ incredible, that’s what. I don’t care what you say, what excuses you have, but you are never too old to learn. So take some time to write down some of the things you would still like to learn – maybe it’s a sport you haven’t tried, or you’d like to learn a language, or perhaps it’s getting some qualifications to allow you to finally take the plunge and leave your boring 9-5 in order to start your own business. Whatever it is, this is your life, so take charge of it, throw the rule book out the window and live it the way you want to.
Ikigai, balance, purpose, mindfulness, self care – call it whatever buzzword you want, they are all essentially the same thing…us humans simply want to feel happy, fulfilled, loved and useful. It’s about being present. Sure you can plan for the future, god knows we all love a good planning sesh, but it’s about living your life in such a way that you have a purpose, you are content, you have a roof over your head, you’re surrounded by people you love and who love you back, and you are proud to be YOU!
And that my friends is ikigai!
What do you get out of bed in the morning for?
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