Dear Students and Friends on the path of yoga,
The beginning of a new year often inspires many of us to write and talk about resolutions/intentions that are often well meaning, but short-sighted. I try not to treat the last day of each year too differently than any other day. I do use it, though, as a time for reflection. Each year, I like to create a vision board (designing my life of purpose by paying close attention to what inspires me; finding words and pictures for my collage and integrating those things into my life.) I keep this visual reminder of my purpose, my joy, on my desk where I can see it every day.
I suppose organizing our lives based on cycles of 12 months has been the norm for many of us. It does feel good that we can start ‘anew’ on some level, but I believe that we can do that every day. So, in lieu of the typical New Year’s resolution, I’m going to introduce a concept.
There is a Japanese theory that helps us discover the unique spirit that resides in each of us. Looking at the Venn diagram below, you see how this concept gracefully lands in between that which you love, that which you are good at, that which you can be paid for, and that which the world needs. This word is, Ikigai.
Originating from Okinawa, Japan, the term, Ikigai, is often translated into “the reason you wake up in the morning.” Because Okinawa has one of the largest centenarian populations, it is often used in scientific studies:
“Combined with a particular diet and support network of friends, ikigai is helping people live longer on Okinawa as it gives them purpose.”
GIVES THEM PURPOSE.
In order to find your Ikigai, you should ask yourself these four questions in terms of the work, hobbies, and things you spend time doing:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- What can I be paid?
- What does the world need?
I feel lucky to have found my Ikigai through my work with teaching Yoga. But it has taken time and it continues to morph into variations of my original thought of what a Yoga teacher is. Each one of my jobs (from many restaurant and service industry positions, to English teacher in Japan, to group travel coordinator, to Montessori teacher, to Spinning instructor) and even hobbies (running, Yoga, travel, cooking) opened my eyes to those four questions above.
Here is what I figured out:
- I love learning, teaching, and entrepreneurship.
- I love adventure and different cultures.
- I love healing modalities.
- I love variety and non-traditional work schedules.
So, not only did I figure out what I love doing, but I learned what I’m good at (and where I need to ask for help!), that I can be paid to do what I love and am good at, and that the world needs what I have to offer.
Teaching Yoga has been this, and more, for me. It is why I get out of bed in the morning. I feel happy (most days, I am human, you know!) and receive so many intangible gifts from this work. I am very grateful for this.
Ikigai leads to happiness and fulfilment on a deeply personal level. As you can imagine, there are people whose Ikigai is taking care of their grandchildren; or cooking for and feeding their family and friends; or taking photographs of the awe-inspiring moments happening right now. Together, the 4 elements (re: Venn diagram) can create a joyful, satisfying life that provides not just pleasure when you do what you love, or money when you do what you can be paid for, but a sense that you are fulfilling your dharma (your purpose) as well as helping those around you.
How can you live with purpose today, to live a longer, more joyful and healthier life?
There is a plethora of information on Ikigai. Here are 2 videos explaining Ikigai even further, that I think you will enjoy.