Do you have a reason to wake up in the morning? If not, now is the time to get one! The New Year is a great time to reflect on where we are, and what we’d like to do to improve upon that. Enter ikigai: it is just one of the many habits and lifestyle practices from Okinawa that can help us to live longer, healthier, more satisfying lives like the Okinawan elders do.
IKIGAI: A REASON TO WAKE
Pronounced “ee-kee-guy,” this Japanese word means “reason for being.” It is the concept of being useful, or making your life and time useful for you. It can be just about anything, but it needs to be important to you, personally. Your ikigai could be something you do regularly for your family; it could be your job; or maybe volunteering; or even making something. I once met a man who spends time several days a week cleaning the weeds away in his greater neighborhood area – not for money, but just because it needs to be done. I suspect that is his ikigai.
MY REASON TO WAKE UP
On the one hand, I just happened upon my ikigai. On the other hand, I also accepted it willingly and happily. I continue to take on the responsibilities involved with my ikigai. It is teaching traditional Okinawan karate. I know this is my reason to wake up, because on the weeks like this, where we have only one class (or none), I usually feel a bit lost. Taking time off prevents burnout. But I miss the dojo when it’s closed. On the days when I teach, I look forward to seeing the students, and I anticipate potential lessons and class activities.
FINDING YOUR REASON TO WAKE UP
Have you heard the phrase, “If it is to be, it is up to me”? This is important for your reason to wake up. For many, it is a responsibility stepped in to, like being a parent, or parenting a child whose mom and dad abnegated their roles. But it is a conscious choice to joyfully take on that position, its responsibilities and blessings, and accept it as an ikigai. Your reason to wake up doesn’t have to be as noble as saving future generations. It just needs to be important to you. If you are having trouble with this, you might think about what was important to you as a child. The innocence of youth can contain wisdom.
NO PERMANENT REASON TO WAKE UP
It’s possible that your reason to wake up will be the same throughout your adult life. However, as we go through life’s phases, we may grow out of an ikigai. Then it is time to reassess and find a new one. If nothing else, at least the concept of ikigai promotes self awareness and the power you have over your own life.
We tend to naturally reflect on the quality of our lives and our health when we welcome a new cycle, like a new year. This is a great time to consider your ikigai. Find your reason to wake up on a daily basis and you will have a happier year.
By Jenifer Tull-Gauger