Searching For Your Ikigai

How do we find ikigai?

For Yohei Nakajima, attaining ikigai is a journey. Not feeling a sense of ikigai is not a bad thing, instead, it's an opportunity to find things that will give you a sense of purpose.

Nick: So I think my audience, Yohei, would be wanting to find their ikigai. You write about how it's a journey and something you search for. And it's something I know you obviously went through. So would you like to touch on that?

Yohei: I think it's cliché to quote that it's about the journey, not the end. But life is a journey. There's no moment that I think you're living toward it. I think you're constantly looking to appreciate life as it is.

A constant search is life itself and that's what I'm referring to. For some people, there are moments in life where you wake up and you don't know what's next. It might be a quarter-life or midlife crisis or it could just be a slump that you're going through. 

Whenever I have a slump, I always remember that that's an opportunity for me to look for ikigai in places I haven't looked before. Then when you do find it, you dive into it, and you wake up every morning excited that you have something to look forward to.

And I think some people when they don't feel that ikigai when they wake up, and they're just not excited about life, not excited about what's happening during the day, I think it's important to remember that it is about the search, it is about finding and it's great that if you find it and get to do it.

But not feeling ikigai is not a bad thing. It's an opportunity to look for ikigai in places you haven't looked before.

Nick: You've reminded me of one aspect that I've learned from Kamiya Mieko about ikigai that it's about fulfilment, having this idea you have life fulfilment, and that even in times where life is hard and you're struggling if you believe your life is moving forward in a positive direction, you can feel ikigai at that moment.

And it does help you to continue and live your journey or in a sense, you don't proactively search every day for your ikigai but you do look for meaning in your life. And you do want a sense of purpose. 

And that if we do reach states of boredom, or frustration, as you said, it's probably a sign for us to try something new or be proactive.

Yohei: I think it's called the hedonist cycle, the idea that we have ups and downs but on average, we're just the same.

I kind of buy into that concept to some extent, to the extent that we do have ups and downs but I think being the nerdy person that I am, if you graph it out, I think the average can slowly increase. 

Over time If you look back 10 years from now, as your life on average has the last three years been better than the three years 10 years ago? I tend to look at it that way.

So that even if I am feeling down, I just remember, it's part of the cycles of ups and downs, just like there are summer and winter. But on average, is my life improving?

When asked me that question, the answer tends to be yes, granted, I feel blessed that I get to say that. But I think it is important to have a long term view when it comes to finding purpose or ikigai in addition to a short term view as well.

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Ikigai is a greatly misunderstood concept outside of Japan. It’s not a word from Okinawa. It’s not the Japanese secret to longevity. It’s not an entrepreneurial Venn diagram framework.

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