The Marie Condo for Your Mind, Body and Spirit.
The word Ikigai is made up of two Japanese characters "IKI" (生き) as "life" and "GAI" (甲斐) as "values". Japanese words and characters has different meaning depending on the context in which the word is used.
The Japanese character GAI in IKIGAI can also be read as KAI, which means shells. The origin of the word Ikigai goes back to the Heian period (794 to 1185). This time in history is known as the “Golden Age”, greatly influenced by art and architecture, a 400-year period of relative peace and prosperity where shells were seen as valuable commodities.
A game called Kaiawase (Matching Shells) also started during this period, which is quite similar to the card game “concentration”. Pairs of clam shells were polished and intricately painted by hand. The images depicted everything from nature to ancient Japanese scenes of noblemen and scriptures. To play, the clam shells are placed painted side down and the players take turns trying to find the matching pairs.
Now in this day and age, many of us can barely find time for enjoyment, for our hobbies and to play. We tell ourselves we don’t have time for games amd finding our match is no-longer an enjoyable task. As we focus so hard on finding the "perfect", job, career, tittle, position, location and partner, we get lost in the business of life. Sure, we concentrate very hard on our careers, but instead of playfully living our life, we end up stressed and anxious.
But what if by allowing ourselves to play, we are creating opportunities to engage in "flow" a mind state where we are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus. Flow states leads to less stress and greater life satisfaction. Flow allows us to express ourselves and our identity. By engaging in play and allowing ourselves to find our flow we are creating greater understanding of our strengths along with where our boundaries and limitations lie.
Taking the playful approach to discovering our ikigai is ultimately leads to better engagement with life. We allow ourselves to try new things, make mistakes and get lost in the process of life as an adventure.
During the "Golden Age" in Japan, people knew their values, they lived in harmony and spent time appreciating the beauty of life. Even now a place called "Okinawa" in Japan is known for having one of the highest number of centenarians living in the world.
Our values or understanding our ikigai is like a compass that can help us find direction. Living a balanced lifestyle and knowing your Ikigai leads to more productivity and prevents burnouts, our modern-day disease.
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