The process I undertook to determine my ikigai.

The concept of embracing life is supposedly clear enough. One embraces life if one values the people, experiences and even objects that constitute one’s life.

I think, in this sense, those of us who do not believe in an afterlife are more likely to be able to embrace life. However, those of us who do not believe in an afterlife are also far more likely to face that basic existential crisis. Doubly so, in fact as there is no Deity or theosophy to tell you that the taking your own life is wrong. Thus the weight of the seeking out “why?” and ask “where is the purpose?” weighs heavier on our minds.

I do not know if there is an answer. In all honesty, I can only assume we must, for our own sanity, come up with an answer that will suit ourselves.

We must discover a sense of purpose for ourselves.

This, as our Japanese brethren tell us, is our Ikigai (“ee-ki-guy”).

Everyone, according to the Japanese, has a hidden ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.

Ever since I learnt about this concept, I have been chasing it with all my inner being.

I did not know where to look, I did not know how to start … I just knew I had to start somewhere.

Thus, this is a detail of the process I took. A process I have guided a few people through and one I hope will help others to at least clarify the many thoughts running through their minds, if nothing else.

1. If you know nothing else, you know what you do not want.

Let’s be honest. If you knew what you wanted, then this entire exercise wouldn’t be necessary. Sometimes when we think about what we want we face a wall of doubt, indecision and anxiety. So, let’s start with what we do not want. It can be trivial, it can be huge – it doesn’t matter. The idea is to get the juices going.

Try to be “SMART” about your written points when you go back and review. As a personal example – “I do not want to die” is not likely to be constructive, thus this can become “I want to live as long as possible and remain healthy, active and lucid throughout my time on earth and when it is my time, I wish to pass on peacefully in my sleep”

2. What do you enjoy doing?

Now – what activities do you enjoy? It makes no difference what it is, the importance here is not what you write, but the fact that you do write things. Do not judge, do not (over)think, just write it out.

3. What activities would you like to be able to do?

Now – what activities do you think you would enjoy? Once again, no difference what it is, the importance here is once again to write things out. Do not judge, do not (over)think, hell, do not even allow reality to kick in — just write it out.

4. What are you good at?

So, now, have a look at the things you are good at doing. Again, just write it out. Do not think about what you do compared to other people, don’t second guess yourself, don’t be harsh, if you can perform it, then write it down.

5. What are the correlations?

Once more, look back at the columns of answers you have provided. What correlations exist? Be Creative! Be radical! Be random! Play around as much as you want.

It’s amazing the correlations that can come about. For example, if you had written “writing, travel, motorcycle riding” in your list of items you enjoy doing and perhaps “photography” under items you are good at, then one correlation that could become feasible is “Travel writing and photography for tours by motorbike.”

6. Are there any conflicts within the list of answers?

Now look back against all the answers, are there any conflicts between what you do not want and what you enjoy, want to and can do? For now, just highlight these conflicts.

If in the items you listed in your list of things you do not want were “be away from home for more than one night” there could be a conflict with the previous travel writing correlation. This may simply mean a re-consideration (e.g. Travel writing and photography for day tours by motorbike in my region) rather than a dismissal.

7. Let the Solar Plexus kick in.

Now is where you stop thinking and start feeling. Meditate away, use whatever decision matrixes or oracles or magical fairy sticks that you normally use to help you out. My general rule is that whatever you have used in the past will help you, not because Tarot cards, or coin flips, or whatever works, but because it’s at that point that your true gut feelings will become apparent. That feeling that is just above the gut, but just below the heart/ribcage will tell you what you really need to know.

If you look at that example, and your inner knowledge says you will not be happy after six months … listen to it. Perhaps, six months is enough, perhaps it isn’t – only you can tell for sure, and no one says that your ikigai must be forever.

8. Now, do you know what do you want?

List it out. Breathe it in. Feel it. It’s okay if you don’t. Continue meditating – sometimes the answer doesn’t become apparent right away. Sometimes you just need la raison d’être pour aujourd’hui until you find your sense of purpose, happiness and meaning. There is nothing wrong with that. Hell, I started by making my reason for being up in the morning was a promise my partner that I would get up and be out of the house in time to travel to work with her. Nothing more than that. Sometimes, that’s enough to make the effort.

That’s all I have for now. Feel free to ask any questions. I hope it helps.

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