What Led Me to Discover Ikigai

With her passion to find creative ways to educate people, Dr. Caitlin Kight stumbled upon the Japanese concept of ikigai. She shares how she was able to incorporate ikigai during one of her sessions, and how the students responded well with the concept, which led her to explore more about it.

Nick: I did some research on your website and found a quote, I think that sort of encapsulates what you've just shared. So I'll read the quote:

"I am passionate about finding creative ways to educate no matter the audience or the setting. This is something I frequently lecture on, and in order to keep my content fresh, I often try my hand at new techniques."

I think I learned that from you when you offered to do a Lego series play session for our group related to ikigai, and I thought, well, who is this Caitlin lady, she's already wanted to teach Lego in my ikigai tribe.

And I thought, wow, this will be cool. So we did that. And that was lots of fun. So yeah, you are very passionate about finding creative ways to educate.

And so now you are pursuing your second doctorate in education, with a focus on self-study, as a reflective practice for educators. And I have this idea, maybe this led you to learning about ikigai?

Caitlin: Yeah, it did, actually, when I was teaching a bit more than I am now, one of the things that I taught was doctoral supervision. I would often go in and talk not just to supervisors, but also to doctoral students to hear about what their concerns are.

What are the things that they're worried about? So I could take that to their supervisors and say, here's how you can help. And in one session, I was invited in as a panelist to talk to the PGRs, the post-grad researchers about the next steps with their careers. 

So what are they going to do when they graduate and go on into the world as baby doctors, and one of their real concerns was, what if I don't land a job in academia, and that is becoming increasingly a challenge, where people will get a Ph.D. and then they can't stay in a university because there's just not enough jobs?

And it's, it's something that really worries people and obviously, I got a Ph.D. but I did not become a professor.

And so I always try to help them feel a bit more secure. You know, there are many options, and actually, ultimately it doesn't matter what your job title is. What matters is, are you doing something that makes you feel good. Are you doing something that you like?

And in order to try to help communicate that idea, I was poking around. I had been on social media and had seen ikigai at some point, a year or two ago, and I thought, this would be a really good thing to take in and share with this group of students, I think this idea of this Purpose Driven Life and all that I think they could really see this visual and understand what I'm talking about. And that was the western ikigai graphic. 

So I poked around online to try to find that to take into the session. And when I did, I found your website, actually. The students in that session really responded well.

They all scribbled this, what is this, I want to go find this, and they really liked the idea, which I thought was great. And I thought, there's clearly something in this.

But what I found really exciting in looking at your website, was that the western thing is really interesting and really useful. Just the concepts there are great philosophical prompts to think about things reflectively.

But it looks like it was just the tip of the iceberg, about what ikigai really could be or really was. And I wanted to learn more because that's exactly what I do. I'd like to dig deeper. And I like to look at this reflective practice.

And so that is what brought me to enroll in the program and to really think about, what is this philosophy in this approach? And how could this maybe structure or support or feed into the work that I'm doing more generally thinking about reflective practice as an educator? 

IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living

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.

This evidence-based book clears up the misconceptions of Japan's most misunderstood word and culturally appropriated concept and offers an authentic perspective of the concept in the context of Japanese culture.

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