(Reproduced from Kinfolk magazine, volume 8.)
“This is what you live for, the passion and the purpose of your life. Have you found your ikigai yet? It is the joy found in living, whether it is your job, volunteer work, your family or your friends. It is what you are trying to achieve from this life that you were given.”
We all know how important it is to have a sense of purpose and direction. But I wonder if this has become so cliche that we fail to give it the attention it needs. Life goes on and the demands of work and family often seem to extinguish any authentic choice. Or the carefree nomadic, portfolio career of our 20s seems less appealing when the money begins to dry up or we struggle to identify a meaningful contribution to sustain us. And, how authentic is ‘choice’ in life purpose anyway? Don’t we just follow our hearts and identify ‘purpose’ as a description of our living?
As we plod or run along through life, we wear a track that increasingly becomes known and therefore comfortable. As we progress along this track, we can ask ourselves how we are going; and even if things don’t feel exactly right, we commit to improving the way we are progressing along the same track. All good. Mostly.
Sometimes, what we need to to ask a different question; are we on the right track? It’s not just about doing things better, its about doing better things. The comfort of the well worn ruts of our current track can sometimes prevent us from either creating a new path of noticing the alternative track through the bushes.
So ikigai is about asking questions about where our effort and energy is being spent. How are we harmonising pleasure, goodness and meaning in our lives? Amidst all the busyness of life, is there a consistent thread that gives cohesion to how we live and the choices we are making?
As Maria and I face some more transitions over the coming months, these are questions we will be asking ourselves.