Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Lately I have discovered Ikigai, a Japanese concept for one’s “purpose in life,” which argues that having the four elements of passion, mission, vocation, and profession in balance will lead to fulfillment and possibly even longer life. I will touch on each of these in a four-part series of posts in the coming months. First, let’s begin with passion.
Are you fueled by passion for what you do? Do you wake up excited for the day and full of energy, or groggy and hankering for your first full pot of espresso? I’ve been on both sides of that equation (sans espresso; I prefer to enjoy a cup of coffee now and again, rather than relying on it to live) and the groggy side kinda sucks, doesn’t it? Up until the last year or two, I regularly woke up in various states of exhaustion and dread. And for what? Supposedly, because I was building a business I felt passionately about. In February of 2017 I sold that five-year-old IT business…
...and after all was said and done, I felt happier than I had in a long time.
Let me touch on a bit of the history of that turning point. I started my previous business in 2012 after having spent a couple years working in a corporate IT role which was merely “okay.” It provided a regular paycheck, but also brought me stress at the cost of freedom. I didn’t realize that fact until I left the job to go full time in my business, at which point I felt the rush of possibilities and the true flexibility that I would never have had in an office. (Disclaimer: this is not a push to get you to start your own business, simply a recap of my own path. It is a big decision that I will leave up to you to make.) Fast forward five years, and I was even more stressed than I had felt while working my office job. Go figure! In my efforts to build a business, I had built myself into a corner. I barely had enough money coming in and I didn’t use my time wisely because I was so frantic. In short, I was a mess.
At that point, a colleague urged me to take a trip out of town to disconnect and breathe, even if only for a couple days. So, the next week, I threw together a suitcase and took a road trip up to Duluth for a few days. I didn’t check my email, didn’t answer my phone, didn’t correspond at all outside of some texts with a friend who lived up there to coordinate a meetup. I truly removed myself from my life for almost three days and discovered I was not as passionate about technology as I thought. Yeah, I can troubleshoot and configure technology better than most, but it had become a chore to keep up with the skills and smarts needed to to the job. I learned an important lesson in passion.
We can force ourselves to do things we find uncomfortable, but if we have an imbalance in our lives, or in our Ikigai, ultimately something is going to give. Recently I listened to a Success podcast about the effects of gratitude. According to research, our emotions and psychological outlook can have long term physiological effects. The longer you feel stressed, the longer your body stays in ‘fight or flight’ mode; the longer you feel content and happy, the more endorphins and good hormones populate your system. I don’t have a doctorate in science, but those concepts make sense to me.
Long story short: now that I am more aligned with my passion of guiding others, I more frequently do wake up excited for the day. I sleep much better and I am able to function more capably in everything I do. Now, that’s not to say I have “found my center,” as so many Hollywood zen master types would say, but I do feel a lot closer to it. And being in that space makes a huge difference.
Think on those questions from the second paragraph. Try to understand the reasons behind your answers and do some reflection. Then give yourself a pat on the back, because you’ve already started down the road to your own Ikigai.
You can find our FREE 1-page Ikigai worksheet on our Patreon here: Ikigai Worksheet