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  • Aditi Surana

Discover your Ikigai

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

As a high-performance coach, I keep inviting people to try new things which may seem uncomfortable, question old beliefs, and experiment with skills. You are absolutely right, if you would have noticed, I do the same in our blogs.

Some Bollywood movies like Dangal, Chak de and Iqbal have taught us that a coach can do wonders, only if given a chance. So what is our game here? The game we are mastering here is to gamify the challenges of everyday life. Post lockdown when we open the doors to the ‘new’ normal, we will be surrounded by economic, financial, emotional, medical and social upheaval. If we do not want these inevitable challenges to engulf us, then we have to tackle them effectively. Our old processing tools need an upgrade!

Today I will be discussing the 5 pillars of a powerful Japanese principle called ‘Ikigai’. It means “the reason for being, the reason to wake up, it's the sense of being connected to something deeper and more meaningful than day-to-day survival, a quality that brings richness and fulfilment to our lives.”

  • Pillar 1: Starting small

  • Pillar 2: Releasing yourself

  • Pillar 3: Harmony and sustainability

  • Pillar 4: The joy of small things

  • Pillar 5: Being in the here and now

I believe in the gift of tough times. You may agree with me. The lessons learnt in the toughest phases of our lives, have shaped us in ways we could've never imagined. It has crafted most of our winning streaks.

In 2018, a friend gifted me a little white book with some minimalist orange circular drawings on the cover. ‘Ikee gaai’ I struggled to pronounce the word. Ikigai by the author called ken Mogi. The subtitle had me hooked, ‘how the Japanese wake up to joy and purpose every day’. That year I spent reading and gifting as many ikigai books, as I could.

The word literally consists of iki (to live) and gai (reason).

Most of you must have seen this diagram of ‘What is Ikigai?’ the easiest way to think about ikigai in your profession life is to find an intersection, the common ground between:

  • What you love

  • What you care about

  • What the world needs

  • What you can get paid for

Ikigai is the purpose - at the centre of these four circles.

Look for your own answers to these questions. Let me give you an example:

What do I love?

I love to analyse handwriting and people. I would have taken this as my hobby anyways.

What do I care about?

I care about personal growth & transformation.

What does the world need?

The World needs tools and methods to find calmness & balance to solve the emotional, cognitive & behavioural challenges.

Can I get paid for this?

Not initially but after some entrepreneurial hustle & lots of other training over the last few years, I now do get paid well.

After my research on Ikigai, I have come to realise that ikigai can be available in every action that we take. We need not look at it only from a professional angle. The pillars will help us understand - How do you experience ikigai in the times to come?

Pillar 1: Starting small

According to Ikigai, It doesn't matter what you do. Mopping the floor, organizing papers or talking to a client. Treat the work you do as if you were the most efficient person on this planet. Do it diligently & carefully. Be attentive and focus on attaining the best results you can at the moment.

The Japanese believe in Kodawari. Kodawari is a personal standard, to which the individual adheres in a committed manner. I meet a lot of people, who build their own sense of self-worth based on their professional or financial success. They feel their net worth is their self-worth. This puts them under enormous pressure. Kodawari is contrary to that approach. It’s the pursuit of excellence in small actions. It needs attention, open-mindedness & commitment.

Pillar 2: Releasing yourself

In Indian Gurukuls and in Japanese zen temples, once the disciple joins / no matter who he is, he is not treated any differently than the other fellow disciples. There isn’t any merit system. No matter how much work you do, how well you perform or how long you meditate, you’ll receive no brownie points, no praise. You are not recognised, celebrated or validated for your performance.

Can you imagine a world like this? Can you imagine social media like this? No likes, no comments on your Insta post. You would only post things that matter to you. Writing those words, clicking that picture, and sharing that message can be genuinely fulfilling if you do it without any external validation.

Pillar 3: Harmony and sustainability

Ken Mogi, the author of the book ikigai says “A mindset with the drive to win can lead to great innovations. The same mindset can also lead to excessive stress and instability, both for individuals and society.”

After being in the lockdown for the last 6-8 weeks we all have realised it. The rule ‘Survival of the fittest’ might be applicable to the animal kingdom. However, for us, sustainability is an art of life. A man is like a forest, he’s an individual yet connected and dependent on others for growth.

Pillar 4: The joy of small things

Ikigai believes that “Satisfaction comes when you create something from start to finish/, where people take pleasure and satisfaction in both/ the process and the result.”

I have studied this principle in many high-performance routines. It is important to understand that you might have a 9 to 5 job/ but you can still aim to do at least one thing /you love to do, every single day.

Whatever your hobby might be: eating vegetables you grow in your home garden, greeting customers with a smile, writing short stories. You are not bound by any standards. You are free to do whatever you want, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others. You must keep at it, every single day. Do at least one thing that you love to do.

Pillar 5. Being in the here and now

Based on the concept of flow presented by an Austrian psychiatrist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you can find pleasure in work.

“Work becomes an end in itself, rather than something to be endured /as a means of achieving something else” Finding happiness in one’s efforts and enjoying the journey is the most important challenge in life. Write an article even if no one may read it, and draw a picture when nobody is watching. Workout when nobody is there to see your progress.

I use an ingenious way to induce flow through a handwriting stroke that is called ‘flow of thoughts. This continuous stream of letter ‘s’, practised in a certain manner can bring a tremendous amount of calmness and flow in many walks of life.

I know ikigai can be a tough concept to understand. You might take time. Please ask your questions, read, do research. This is worth exploring.

I would like to know what your takeaways were from this blog? What small action will you be taking to improve something in your life? Write to me on my Instagram account @Aditisurana

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