Life is a short, medium OR long existence of an individual human being or animal. Who knows how long one can actually live, right?
However, on Okinawa islands - the string of 150 subtropical islands that lay east of Taiwan and constitute Japan's southernmost prefecture, contains more centenarians per head of population than anywhere else boast of having the highest life expectectencies in the world!
The inhabitants on these islands on an average live seven times longer then Americans. Not only are their lives long and healthy and social but they also have a firm belief and that is leading lives of PURPOSE.
According to research, having a sense of purpose and direction is considered to be very healthy for our well being. It not only protects our health but also helps us to live longer and happier lives. Its all because we are connected to something much larger than ourselves, that we can remain far more hopeful and positive.
It becomes easier to cope with all of life’s challenges and connect with others and it becomes easier to take care of others as well.
This sense of pupose is referred to as ‘ikigai’ in Japanese culture. It simply means a reason for being or otherwise known as raison d'être (a French expression which means reason for being). Ikigai is a word which is composed of two Japanese words ‘iki’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘kai’ which means ‘the realisations of what one expects and hopes for’.
So, how do we find our purpose?
Our purpose is not like a ‘conclusion’ that we just settle or conclude upon. Sometimes it finds us at times of personal crisis. Our purpose is found at the intersection of:
· Your values i.e. what you believe in
· Your strengths –what you are good at
· Your interests -what you have interest and show passion doing
· Your Service: how you would like to contribute back to the society, community, or even to a cause.
While we divide our day and time into two different phases: work and retirement; in Okinawa, Japan there is just one word that encompasses everything and that is
Simple to understand, isnt it but don't we make this simple meaning’ so complex? Of course, we have one purpose and that is to stay alive, but beyond that we have to assign meaning to our lives, such as pursuing professions or vocations which pretty much take up a huge portion of our day and give our lives some sense of direction and purpose.
Just unpacking this word involves the convergence of four primary elements:
What your passion is (your love)
What your mission is (your world needs)
What your vocation is (good at)
What your profession is (can get paid for)
In Okinawa, Japan ikigai is considered as a “reason to get up in the morning”.
While incorporating the financial aspects of life the word also encompasses spiritual and mental aspects of one’s life.
It involves four circles: a venn diagram with four diagram with four empty circles that intersect in the middle –one for each of the elements below and to write your thoughts in the corresponding section.
Circle 1 – Profession
Inside this circle, you have to question yourself: What are you doing that pays the bills and what parts of your job do you enjoy? Your profession is what you are paid to. This can be something that you may have always wanted to do or it can be something that you were encouraged to do. It may have even evolved from a subject from a subject that you studied.
Circle 2 – Passion Inside of this circle you have to ask yourself, what is it that you enjoy doing, whether or not it has some commercial end. Passions are known to excite us. This activity or activities should totally engross you when you are in the zone or time stands still. They are essentially activities that excite us and make us feel whole and consume our attention.
Circle 3- Mission
Inside this circle, you ask yourself, how do you want to be remembered? What do you feel is your duty to the earth or mankind. In short,
Even if we are going though a very dark and challenging time, there is a purpose and meaning behind it. Have you ever given a bit of thought to why you live the life you do; and why you work the profession you do?
Ikigai, a Japanese concept is known to be synonomous with the French phrase ‘Raison d’etre’ – i.e. reason to be’. At every stage of our lives, with no direct English translation Ikigai is a Japanese concept which embodies the idea of happiness in living.
Why are you here and what is your reason for being? Don't you spend a good portion of your life finding out the reason why? This is one of the most important questions that you can possibly ask yourself and ponder over and spend your whole life thinking about.
It is a Japanese concept of soul purpose or Ikigai that is designed to help YOU uncover all the answers that you seek by exploring the intersection between what you can be paid to do, what you love to do, what the world needs and what you are truly good at.
Happiness- isn’t that something that we all seek for in some form or the other in life? Our lives are limited and we are actually committed to make some meaning out of our lives by pursuing through the different goals we pursue and actions that we take.
A life of meaning is considered to be sensible life. It is similar to the French phrase, raison d’etre that means a reason to be. Ikigai, which is a Japanese concept that means a reason for being, is so important that everyone must find his or her individual Ikigai. Finding it requires a very deep often-lengthy search of the self and that's not really easy.
Finding one’s Ikigai is often a very lengthy and deep search of the soul. How many of us try to search for meaning in our lives through our profession, hobbies and even through raising our children? It is extremely important to one’s cultural identity as it adds meaning to life.
American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell has shared his view on fulfilling our purpose when he said, “My general formula for my students is, ‘Follow your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.”
Meanwhile, philosopher and civil rights leader Howard W Thurman had said: Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that… Because what the world really needs is people who have come alive.
On the other hand, Sacred Activism encourages us to find a purpose by following our ‘heartbreak’. Andrew Harvey –(British author, religious scholar and teacher of mystic traditions, known primarily for his popular nonfiction books on spiritual or mystical themes) also encourages us to find out that which is most disturbing in our own world and use that as a catalyst to fuel our actions to find where we can make the biggest impact.
Professions have swerved across my mind, Ive studied Psychology (Bachelor in Arts) and done a P.G. Diploma in Communications and a certificate course in creative writing, However, writing has really helped me to understand the ideas that are constantly swirling around in my head and give them some substance.
More importantly it gives me the confidence to express my views and thoughts and also to be able to meet people who are sharing the same journey or understand the one that I am own. Writing has helped me to connect to other writers and become a source of happiness and contentment which are all predictors of health, longevity of life and sucesss.