‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese word for describing the pleasures and meanings of life – from ‘iki’ (to live) and ‘gai’ (reason) – sometimes described as ‘the reason we get up in the morning’.
It has five pillars:
- Starting small
- Releasing yourself
- Harmony and sustainability
- The joy of small things
- Being in the here and now
This is a lovely combination of several concepts which I find particularly useful.
I like the focus on the joy we can take in the little everyday things in our lives. I try to incorporate some enjoyment into each day (see my recent blog: ‘CLANGERS for all…!!‘) and such things don’t have to be large, complicated or expensive.
I admit there are occasional days when I don’t manage this but, mostly, I do. And it can be as simple as taking a break to enjoy a good cup of tea or coffee (the joy of small things). By this I mean to properly enjoy it, with full attention and focus, relaxed and mindful in the moment.
Or I might take a minute or two to notice the sunshine or marvel at a fabulously grey and silvery thundery sky. I could listen to the birds singing first thing in the morning (harmony), have a good belly laugh (releasing myself) or take a stroll along the seafront and breathe… (in the here and now).
I dipped into Ken Mogi’s book ‘The Little Book of Ikigai’ recently in which he describes how we can use it to help us reinforce (good) habits we want to repeat, such as getting up early (a good habit for some of us maybe) and having/doing some of our favourite things early in the day. Ikigai here = reward and releases dopamine into our system which makes us feel good and reinforces the good habit or practice (harmony and sustainability).
As Mogi says, quoting from Mary Poppins: “… a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” or, in other words, why make things hard for ourselves when we can make them easier?
‘Starting small’ fits well with my favoured approach of taking small steps towards change – finding gentle but effective ways to nudge ourselves into overcoming our own inbuilt resistance and achieve things we might otherwise find difficult or challenging.
And it requires us to get past the unrelenting work ethic so many of us seem to have and accept that we also deserve some pleasure in life – which I believe we all do – and that our days need not be just about work and responsibility.
Wholehearted living is about striking a balance.
Which small, simple pleasure(s) could you incorporate into your day today?