Death is one of the only certainties in life (and they say taxes are the other). How long each of us has before we eventually are taken by this certainty is one of the greatest mysteries we face.
In these two things we are all equal; no matter our birthright, how much money we have amassed or to what higher being we pray to.
Where we are not all equal is how we choose to live the life we have been given. Are you living your life with purpose? Do you know what your reason for being is?
The Japanese have a word for this ‘reason for being’ – Ikigai. ‘Iki’ = life and ‘gai’ = purpose or value.
Specifically in Okinawa the people refer to it as their reason to get up in the morning, which Dan Buettner suggests in his book “Blue Zones” to be the reason why they live long lives of purpose. They do not have a desire to retire and they work well into old age in jobs that bring them pleasure.
As the diagram shows, Ikigai is the nexus of you doing what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. If you think about these four objectives and you believe that you can tick each box, then surely you will feel happy about your lot in life.
The ease of doing what you love and being able to pay your bills with some disposable income is surely the desire of many.
I’ve always been fascinated about the choices people make about the fields in which to study, forge a career or commit to a job. How is it that one person decides to be a dentist, whilst another loves numbers and goes into finance?
Then there are those who make our lives so much easier by being happy to earn a living cleaning, collecting garbage, driving large delivery trucks, upholding the law, putting their lives on the line to fight fires.
We are also blessed with gifted people who bring beauty and art into our lives through fashion, dance, music, art and sculpture. How magical is a world where all the things that need to be done are covered off by people who chose a path in life, forge new entrepreneurial endeavours or randomly fall into a profession?
But what fascinates and delights me the most is the attitude that individuals take into their work, no matter what that work may be. I’ve met people earning minimum wage who take their happy attitude to work with them every day, and share their enthusiastic demeanour with all those whose lives they touch. And on the flip side, I’ve met many earning more money than they can spend who are unhappy, dissatisfied, anxious and depressed.
On a podcast I was listening to recently Oprah Winfrey was relating a story of her early days in television in Chicago. On her drive into work one morning she saw someone walking toward the studio wearing the uniform of the janitorial crew.
She stopped and offered the older gentleman a lift as she was going in the same direction. He gladly accepted, and as they drove they got talking. He explained that he had worked on the cleaning crew for the studio for many years, so Oprah asked him how he enjoyed his job. “Oh, I love working in television” he told her.
What an attitude! What a delightful way to view a job that many people would consider themselves too good for. How many professionals, finding themselves made redundant or facing a downturn in their industry, would consider working in retail, driving a cab, serving in hospitality, or cleaning someone else’s premises?
Do you carry your attitude into the workplace with you? If you do then I hope it is a good one, because the world is relying on all of us to uplift each other.
What is your Ikigai? I hope that you find it.