I watched a TED talk by Dan Buettner last week. In this he talks about why and how it is that some people live longer – much longer – than others. There appear to be a number of factors in involved, but the one that really struck a chord with me was ikigai – a Japanese word that encompasses that sense of purpose that makes one get up in the morning, one’s reason for being.
As Buettner notes, this has nothing to do with the inevitable early morning bladder pressure, or with letting the dog out or making the school lunches. It’s that thing, or combination of things, that makes each day the start of something new – full of possibilities and opportunities for experiences, big or small.
I guess a phrase like living life with a sense of purpose sounds rather New Age, a bit psychobabble and back-to-the-70s. Even so, I think that believing that life is worth living is intrinsically purposeful and is, to some degree, a self-fulfilling prophesy. Apparently a strong sense of purpose helps to boost your immune system. It also lowers your levels of stress hormones and enables you to cope with adversity more effectively. Whether or not it makes one live longer, it certainly seems to make one live better.
Trying to figure out what my ikigai is has taken up a fair bit of contemplative time over the past few days – and the process continues. Perhaps figuring your own out will be super obvious for you, but I had to go back to basics and think about what makes me happy. This led me to think about what activities, food and people leave me feeling calm and fulfilled. Once I had a handle on those – and there are many – I went on to considering what my short, medium and long term goals might be – the big ones and the small ones. While I was doing that I thought about how achieving any or all of those would make me feel – and found that just thinking about that made me smile and want to step out boldly. Ikigai in action 🙂