What is your reason for getting out of bed every morning?
For almost everyone in the world, getting up in the morning means one of two things: work or leisure. Reasons are often related to whatever we need to do on that day; the individual tasks that move us from waking to slumber. When you just read that, I can almost guarantee that you not only agreed, but you also felt in some way sad. Summing up a day in a list of tasks can do that. So maybe you need to look at things a little differently.
In Japan, people have ‘Ikigai’ (pronounced Ick-ee-guy). Ikigai is a concept about finding joy through purpose, or in some sense a “reason for being.” The concept essentially deals with an instrospection into the things that bring you love, what you are good at, and what you are paid for, as well as your idea of what the world needs.
While at first glance it does seem as a concept to apply to your financial life, it really isn’t. Think of it like this: your financial stability contributes to your overall happiness, but sometimes what brings you the most joy is the way you achieve that financial stability.
Ikigai is in truth more concerned about the concept of feeling fulfilled.
What are things that matter to Ikigai?
Having a Hobby.
Raisin a Family.
Having a job you enjoy, or having something that balances out a job that is not enjoyable
The list does not end there, as it really depends on the individual to determine what your Ikigai is, or what contributes to it. The concept, again, is of personal introspection. It is about understanding what brings you joy (not entirely the same as the Marie Kondo method, but likely connected.)
My personal journey to understanding my Ikigai
If you take a look at the Venn diagram you see a few things: that is quite a few circles and shared areas. The first step I took, was I broke down each area and brainstormed as many variables as I could for the sections - while some of my areas were easy to fill in, others required a bit more time, and even asking someone I know really well to give me an idea I may have not thought of.
Now, the first to note is that I did not create these in one day - in fact, I came back to them often t remove or add things. This is important - Your Ikigai changes as you change. We sometimes don’t notice these changes, but what brings us joy can often be things we did not expect, or in fact things that did not use to bring us joy. This project of mine will hopefully be a long running one, were I touch base with it every now and then.
I started with the following suggestion after researching online: Make a list of 10 or more things that you dedicated your time to this week, and ask yourself the following questions:
Is it something I love doing?
Is it something the world needs?
Is it something I am good at?
Is it something I can get paid for? or is what I get paid for a good trade off for really financing this.
There should be a pattern forming with these - some will answer only one question, some will answer more than one, the goal is to fill them on the Venn diagram where they belong. I did the list once a week for the last month - and then had my first draft at the diagram.
I also did the Venn diagram by just adding things from my brainstorming sessions - Things that may not have happened in the last month, but I know could fit somewhere in there.
What does my Ikigai look like?
As you can see, I’ve filled in the areas of What I like, What I am good at and what I can get paid for (hopefully). I did add some concepts to the portion of whether it benefits the world, since I am going for a more conceptual version of the Ikigai, instead of a traditionally based activities one. I used the activities to map out how often I engage in the concepts themselves.
For the most part, it was clear right away that Design is probably the recurring theme of my life. Truthfully, I spend a lot of time working on different projects, and as I’ve more recently returned to a productive mindset, this has become the primary focus of my time. I have a completely unrelated Day Job to design, but the rest of time is dedicated to the activities listed here.
Where do I go from here?
This project is one of self analysis - It is basically me, taking a moment to look into myself and really narrow down on what matters to me. The take aways from this tiny project have mostly been the following:
I am mostly myself when I am working on a design project; whether digital or traditional, my thoughts often feel clearer when I am doing anything creative.
I love engaging in a like minded community. Whether I found it through a course, or through scrolling on instagram, it is a great feeling that you have somewhere that people think similar to you.
I hope I can continue to do what I love and hopefully expand on what I am doing now.
What about you?
Take a moment, look at yourself. Maybe your Venn will look one way today, but maybe in a month it will be different. The goal is not to find one Ikigai for the rest of your life: it is to see what it is today, what it is tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now. Is to make sure that in your day, there is always one thing that is meant to give you purpose, to have a reason to want to wake up, and to know exactly what that is.
I hope that every one who decides to explore this concept a bit further will find it as interesting as I did.
For additional reading:
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles.