There is a concept in Japanese culture that research suggests may contribute to happiness and longevity. They call it ikigai. We don’t have an exact translation in English, but in a nutshell it’s basically your life’s purpose. As westerners we’d generally think of your life’s purpose as something big and lofty. Ikigai is more about your daily purpose. What is your purpose? What you do with each day? How you live each day well? Why do you get up in the morning?
It can be a lofty goal or it can be small. It can be your work, watching your grandkids, dancing with friends, gardening, walking, playing golf, or doing the crossword. Once you know your ikigai you have to live it. Knowing your purpose isn’t enough. You must take action to bring your purpose to life.
I found a couple resources for how to determine your ikigai. One suggested making something like a triple Venn diagram using three circles instead of two. Each circle represents one of the following: what you value, what you enjoy, what you are good at. What overlaps is your ikigai.
When I made mine I was very worried Pilates or movement would be my ikigai. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pilates and movement, and I’d be lucky to have that be my purpose since I do get up and want to move every day, but having my job be my purpose doesn’t work for me. It would concern me to have my work be my purpose because if my career ever changed or went away, I’d really struggle with the loss. I’d want a purpose I have more control over. Still, as I was filling in my diagram, I was thinking, “Oh no. It’s going to be Pilates. Everything I like is related to teaching and movement.” And then I started thinking of all the items I’d listed what really makes me happy. My joy is brought to me by learning new things and finding something interesting in each day and then sharing that with other people and hopefully adding to their day with information. Often what I like learning about is the body and movement, but it doesn’t have to be. I simply enjoy learning, storytelling and interacting with people. Making other people feel good makes me happy. I’m a people pleaser, which can be a curse and a blessing.
So that’s my purpose. It’s small. It can go with me in any circumstance, and when I realized why it is that I get up each morning, it filled me with a sense of bliss. I knew I had it right. Suddenly, the concept of ikigai seemed right. In discovering my purpose I truly felt happy.
Please share your purpose. I’d love to hear what brings you joy each day.