Ikigai: Embracing the Beauty of Small Moments

Is is possible to find ikigai even in the small things?

Nick, together with Trudy Boyle, Clark Chilson, and Shintaro Kono, engages in a discussion highlighting the presence of opportunities to discover ikigai, even within the realm of small moments.

Finding ikigai in everyday life

Trudy: I think that I would love to start with ikigai in the small. For me, the whole idea of the joy of small things that can lead to a meaningful life is wonderful. And particularly, because I work with people with illness, and so therefore. I don't want to give my talk now, so I have to be careful.

But I love the small things, because so often, especially in the West, we're geared to producing action figures. And we're geared to becoming famous, and having fame and fortune, and working very, very hard to produce and be productive.

And I don't think that that helps us. So I think ikigai, because of its focus on ‘how can we have a good life every day, no matter what else is going on?’ is the area that really, really interests me.

Nick: I agree. And it certainly takes the pressure off, doesn't it?

Trudy: It does. Because no matter what happens, you can create little joyful, meaningful moments. I love the word eudaimonia, because it can mean happy and not happy. We don't really have a word like that in English, but it's that idea that things can be going really wrong in your life, but you can still have these heartfelt, meaningful moments, along with all the things that are going wrong.

Nick: It's a touch on that Ken Mogi, we didn't talk about this yesterday, but he's written that he can easily identify 100 sources of ikigai. And he describes ikigai being robust, because if you have this bad start to the day, and you spill your coffee on yourself, or you get a bad email, it doesn't matter.

A few hours later, you can have a great meal or a great conversation with someone, or do work you care about, and feel ikigai. So yeah, that's fascinating, to have 100 ikigai sources.

Trudy: Yeah, I think there's lots, I have lots, and it changes over time. That's my experience.

Nick: Thank you. What about you, Clark? What are your thoughts on this?

Clark: Well, I think that if we have a sense of purpose in life, that purpose can become our ikigai. And that purpose can override all the little things that happen that are unpleasant. There is no getting through life without unpleasantness, there will be unpleasantness.

There will be days when many of us are not going to feel very motivated. But if we have a sense of purpose, and we make that sense of purpose more important than how we feel, we don't become tyrannized by our own feelings, then we can live with a sense of ikigai and echoes Trudy's point: we can live with that sense of ikigai regardless of what is happening.

Because our purpose is more important than the little things happening.

Nick: Yes, that reminds me of maybe to tie in purpose into the small Japanese expression, chanto suru, and doing things properly.

So I love this idea of sense of purpose, and that it helps us get through our day. But Japanese are really good at tying purpose into the small as well, and on this theme of small things. So I think we should now get the perspective of someone who's Japanese, but has lived also for quite a long time outside of Japan.

So Shin, you're probably the most qualified person to talk about ikigai here. So what are your thoughts on small ikigai?

Shintaro: Thanks, Nick. And hi Trudy, Clark, and everybody else. Well, I don't know about most qualified about that. But I identify as a person who do research about ikigai, because maybe I'm not, you know, I’m an ikigai deprived person, maybe.

But anyway, as a background, I'm Japanese, born and raised until 21, and I came to North America for my advanced degrees. Lived here in North America, US, and Canada, for like, 11, 12 years. And I do research leisure.

Yes, you heard it right. Actually, there’s a science about leisure, free time behavior, basically. That's what I do. So going back to your original question, Nick, about ikigai and small, that's where I think leisure shines in a way.

And also leisure is sometimes, the relationship between leisure and ikigai is lost sometimes that we can be so busy in our daily lives, bogged down — work, family, relationships, so many other things, and Pandemic, not to mention, that we can forget about some of the small, but very cherishable moments of leisure.

So the first study I conducted, it wasn't really focused on ikigai, but it was about how leisure can potentially help psychosocial recovery of the disaster survivors in 2011, the March 11, if you remember the earthquake and tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

So I talked to some of the survivors a year after that, and I just asked like, ‘Okay, what makes you going?’ With so many problems, financial issues, they lost a family members and friends, they lost the house, there's so many problems they're still having, and what makes you keep going?

You know, wake up in the morning and get going with your life. Many people are talking about, ‘You know what, Shin, I can do gardening now, I have my garden back. And if flower came out, probably just, you know, bloom.’

And that for some people, many people, it's just small things, but it meant very much from their perspective. And just really taking a time pausing and really giving ourself and our life to appreciate that, to actually even look at that, and recognize that, I think there's quite a bit of value to it, and our life systematically biases not to do so to an extent.

So that's I think, where leisure comes in a lot of leisure experiences come in, it's not just about the big major trip like, bucket list trip that makes your life, your ikigai increase, but maybe it's a day-to-day small moment.