Ikigai, a word deeply rooted in Japanese culture has been one that I’ve adopted on a personal level even more over the past few years. Ikigai roughly translated means “reason to live” or more commonly known as “purpose.” It resonates with the culture change movement in more ways than I can describe.
Last year I picked up a book at the recommendation of a friend titled “Ikigai-The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” and as I skimmed the pages, something profound began to stand out to me. For many years I have taught, trained and written about purpose. In fact, I have likely taught more people than I could ever recall about creating purpose in the lives of our Elders and Staff. But what if we don’t really create purpose? What if purpose was something much deeper than what we can manufacture? What if purpose was something we truly must discover?
Suddenly it made sense to me. I couldn’t plan for the purpose I wanted in my life. That’s why it always felt elusive or just out of my reach. But how do we find Ikigai for ourselves and then lead our Elders and Staff to it as well?
The first step is to be open to discovery. I’d equate it to hiking on a new trail, one you haven’t been on before. Often when I go for a walk, I try to take in all the sights and sounds. When I leave my house, I don’t really know which direction I am going. I just go with my feelings. I’ve learned Ikigai is kind of like that. I started writing down the things that I really love to do in life and then creating space to get lost in them. Sometimes it was walking for hours because I love the breeze in my face, listening to the birds and taking in my own thoughts. Sometimes it was losing myself in a book, art or writing. Other times it was simply loving my family and being with them. Often it was a drive to the lake to just look at the water because I loved it. There were no rules. I’ve learned that when we allow ourselves to be curious about people and situations, we give ourselves permission to uncover passions we may not have known we had prior.
What if we put our eyes on facilitating a path of discovery so Elders can understand their purpose? Are you curious to see what might happen if we went with the flow instead? After much research, I’ve learned that flow is an integral part of discovering Ikigai. For example, an Elder living in my community loves to make rounds early every morning throughout the community, sharing news and updates with others as he goes. He loves asking our staff their favorite snacks so he can ensure they are offered in our community store. This is not something that we created but instead we facilitated. What we created was a community in which he could discover his path of purpose. A community open to flow.
Flow doesn’t depend on activity calendars. It doesn’t necessarily thrive in large group events. Instead, it shows up in the magic of relationships. It rises in spontaneity when we are “being” and not always “doing.” It gently pushes us out of our comfort zones. It whispers to us about the possibilities ahead and inspires us to chase after them.
What could be more life changing than that? What could be more impactful than putting our energy into creating space for “flow” to happen? I truly believe that the key to advancing the culture change movement is understanding that the heart of our work is uncovering a path to Ikigai with those that live and work in our communities.