Ikigai – What Do You Really Want?

Ikigai 

 No, it’s not the contact details of that oddly-smelling dude from the bar last weekend who you assured you’d text after one too many cocktails. (iki-guy, get it? Sorry. I’ll stop now..)

I recently stumbled upon this picture of a venn diagram online in an article on elephantjournal.com, and through a bit more research, was truly uplifted by what I read.

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‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese word which translates to ‘the reason for being’ or a ‘reason to wake up each morning’. Aside from the obvious excitement at the prospect of that first cup of coffee or tiny ray of premature sunshine on the way to work in the morning, ‘ikigai’ is used in Japan to represent a healthy passion for that which allows us to feel fulfilled, satisfied, and valued.

 Through assessing the connections between existing aspects of our own lives and those which we wish could be included, it allows us to access a sense of accomplishment by helping to lay out a simpler path to put into practice the talents and potential we all hold.

It has been described as the outcome of “allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom’, – essentially what happens when we weed out the unhelpful and hindering thoughts, practices, and day-to-day negative activities which may have embedded themselves amongst the delicate bulbs of potential planted within us, making them difficult to access and clouding both our vision and judgement with alternate motives. It might just mean you get easily distracted from your long-term goals, a passing sparkly thing proving just too tempting and ‘full of potential potential’ to let slide (that’s right, not even actual potential – just the potential to develop this potential…*facepalm*).
#Notions

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By breaking down the reality of each important element in our lives, the concept of ‘ikigai’ allows us to accurately consider exactly how and where our passions, talents, and desires are or are not of benefit to us, and thus motivate us down a path directed towards correcting this.

The path itself will not have any one definite end – ‘ikigai’ supports the yogic concept of ‘enjoying the journey’; allowing the focus to shift from the end goal to the current process and current moment of simply getting there.

The passions and potential we acknowledge through finding our ‘ikigai’ is just the first necessary step on the long road to achieving a sense of contentment, and one which takes some self-reflection and meditation to acknowledge.

 It’s important also to remember that sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is to actually sit down and admit to ourselves what it is we really want. Once you’ve recognised and accepted these natural instincts and talents, and truly devote the energy and attention required to help them manifest as reality, they become surprisingly easier and easier to access, and therefore easier to maintain this connection.

 ‘Ikigai’ is not an end goal, target number, weight, destination, or job title. It is not a world phenomenon or cure for disease, platinum selling-single, or award-winning movie.

‘Ikigai’ is something you can access anywhere, anytime, to bring you back to your current situation and accept yourself as you are. Although you might not be exactly where you’d like to be right now, the brilliance of ‘ikigai’ lies in the awareness that every moment you live now is contributing to a future sense of contentment that you will ultimately find if you continue living in the moment.

It is a way to recognise that which defines us and all positive aspects of our lives, in order for us to begin incorporating them into our days to orchestrate a more enjoyable experience of our time here. If nothing else, it’s a way to motivate ourselves and encourage growth.

That’s it’s, really. The simplicity of the Japanese way of life is enchanting.

On Functioning Through Chaos…

One thing I have learned from working in a chaotic, ever-changing and active environment is that one can never ever expect to depend on someone else in order to achieve a goal. If there is something you wish to get done, I have found the best bet to be self-sufficiency, being pro-active, and taking steps myself to ensure it gets done – otherwise it won’t happen the way I intend it to.
I may sound slightly stubborn and rigid with this kind of assertion, but I truly believe that to achieve any kind of happiness for ourselves, we must do so independent of any other’s opinions or interference – it’s finding a nice and acceptable way to do this and go about implementing change for personal reasons that proves difficult sometimes.

A few months ago I took some time to listen to myself. I quit gigging, I took some time off work, and I sat at home for a few days writing, reading, and listening to my needs, my own self, and nourishing my mind and body with things that it was really crying out for. What I found was that I had more creativity, ideas, and potential to give and create and live independently than even I had ever considered possible. The waves and flow of creative energy had always been there, buried deeply somewhere among the canopy of self-doubt, over-analysation, and damaging, poisonous thoughts which had led me to destructive and disordered eating behaviours and thought patterns. It had been stifled by things I previously had in place in my life that did nothing to help them – things I had come to depend on, and thought at the time for all intensive purposes should have been positive outlets, but that had really resulted in my self and sense of individuality being suffocated.
The confusion this created was so comforting in it’s extremity that I stayed there, stuck, yet to anyone assessing my situation from outside my own body, it would have often appeared I was in a good place. This false belief was strengthened by the seemingly successful ventures I embarked on, all the while eating myself up inside at the lack of artistic space I was being allowed (and allowing myself) to express myself and true way of being. In taking time to reassess my beliefs, my needs, and my own self as an individual human being as opposed to existing as a part of or for another person or group of people, I was honestly shaken to realise the power I have over my own life.

Even now just thinking about it empowers me. I have been given this body to live in, to mould and to shape as I see fit over a period of time. I can take it where I like, dress it in whatever clothes are available to me at a given time, and imprint upon it any image or word I feel has made a lasting impact. What I choose to do with my life is actually feasible if I believe in it enough to persist and continue thrusting energy toward it. It’s the choosing part that I struggle with. But I am literally a blank canvas. Every day, every moment, is a blank canvas that we can start building upon, or tearing apart with certain behaviours if we believe it strongly enough to repeat it consistently over any length of time.

I’ve come to see that life is a continuos progression from one moment to the next, each one irrelevant to the one which has gone before it, save when we choose to link them together.

It upset me to realise how much time I’d wasted worrying about what people thought, how I looked, how people would react to things that hadn’t happened yet or that had already come to pass…It was so pointless. The lack of control I’d had really showed itself for what it was when I finally took control, and decided to do something about it.
Realising this really showed me that although people may seem to be heading in the right direction on the outside, often even lying to themselves about being happy, there really is nothing more important than to finding what serves you, only you, and allowing yourself to take it. A chaotic and fast-paced working environment is occasionally the last place you’d expect to find such grounding thought, yet there is something extremely calming and humbling in taking a step back from the madness around and into the one small space of earth within one’s own physical body that remains within our control. Because in the end that’s all we’ll ever really have.