Ikigai is one of those beautiful Japanese words that encapsulates a whole paragraph of English in just one word. Roughly, it describes a reason for being, or that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and really motivates you deep down. Now I want to ask you, what is your ikigai? Don't be disheartened if you're not sure, or if you have one but you're not sure it's what it should be. I spend a lot of time thinking about mine and I'm still struggling to define it. I suspect I'm not alone.
When we ask how one should live, we entertain the implicit assumption that there is some platonic form of 'the perfect life' that we must all model ourselves on and strive towards. Now that is clearly not the case and I'm sure we can all think of many varied lives that we can look at and say 'that person is doing it right'. Take the wildlife trust ranger you say hi to when walking your dog who loves being outdoors, is always happy and never stressed and brings his children along with him at weekends, and compare him to your lecturer at university who spends her morning discussing the hottest new interpretation of Wittgenstein over coffee before settling down to an afternoon of reading in the absence of distraction and then trying out that new tortellini recipe at home with her family. Without delving further into the subjective psychological state of each of these individuals, their lives both appear objectively 'good' but in very different ways. Now compare them both to your next door neighbour who leaves before the sun rises to stand in the doorway of a busy commuter train for 3 hours each day in order to get to the office where they work 50 weeks of the year with people they don't like on projects whose sole purpose is to create more wealth for the CEO who owns 95% of the company and has no time to visit their parents. Whilst there is clearly no such thing as a perfect life, I think some of us are doing it better than others. Which end of the spectrum are you on?