Tuesday 3 April 2018

Ikigai - a reason to get up in the morning

My son is almost 16 years old. Like any teenage boy, he can be very difficult to get up and going in the morning. He is into music, video games and has a flare for sound engineering. Occasionally, he is called on by his school or other organisations to take on the role of DJ at certain events. A little over a week ago, he had one such request. It was the high school sports carnival and, not being a sporty kind himself, almost 16 year old was very happy to volunteer his time in providing the upbeat music for the day. This meant a 7.30am start at the sports oval to set up the equipment. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my son walking around the house before I had even got out of bed. 

This incident reminded me of a Japanese term, Ikigai, which means "a reason to get up in the morning". This simple phrase encompasses so many important aspects of our life; our sense of purpose and meaning, a feeling of well-being and a reason for living. The concept is summarised in a diagram of interlocking circles. When that which we love, that which the world needs, that which we are good at and that which we can be paid for intersect, we have found our Ikigai. Of course, it would be lovely not to worry about that which you can be paid for, but these are the realities of life. 

I discovered this term in 2015 while I was reading about vocation and calling. I spent some time reflecting on each of the circles, writing down my own reflections and exploring the intersection points. I found this a very helpful process. It highlighted those aspects of my work that I didn't enjoy, those I found more difficult and those where, perhaps, I was wasting my time and energy. It also showed clearly where my passion and sense of vocation were found. It is always fun looking back on journal entries and seeing where the journey has taken you. I wrote, in 2015, 'My Ikigai is living the spiritual journey creatively while journeying with others who also want to deepen their spiritual journey.' 

What is it that gets you up in the morning? What is your Ikigai? Discovering this is a process of discernment and it takes time. Those who are able to make their paid work their Ikigai are truly fortunate. As Confucious said, 'Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.'

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