The self-help section of a bookstore can be overwhelming. Occasionally, I will just bring a whole shelf home from the library and flick through them looking for something inspirational. I am always looking for something that feels realistic but doesn’t overwhelm me. Ikigai really caught my eye. According to the jacket description Ikigai is a Japanese idea commonly understood as “your reason to get up in the morning.” I was curious as to whether this would support my some of my New Year’s goals.
Awakening Your Ikigai, How the Japenese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day by Ken Mogi is a basic primer in what is Ikigai and how to cultivate it in your own life. Even my elementary understanding of the history of the Japanese people would lead one to believe that joy is a struggle for them to find. After all, Japan has experienced all the disasters Mother Nature has to offer and has repeatedly been ravaged by war. How could a culture with so much tragedy and one which prizes homogeny experience daily joy? After all, Americans are raised on the idea that individuality and success pave the road to happiness. It turns out, Ikigai is not far from my Mother’s own advice. Joy comes from within.
According to author Ken Mogi, Ikigai is the discovering, defining, and appreciating of life’s pleasures that have meaning for you. You can do this through the five pillars of Ikigai: starting small, releasing oneself, finding harmony and sustainability, finding joy in small things, and being in the here and now. Mr. Mogi explains that Japanese tea ceremony and Sumo wrestling as activities which contain all five pillars but emphasizes that anything that grows your Ikigai is going to result in a happier and more fulfilled life. He cites Jiro Ono making sushi and Hayao Miyazaki’s movies as examples of Ikigai in action. And he addresses the Japanese culture of conformity by explaining that our private joy does not need to be worn on the outside but rather can be kept close to our hearts.
I know people have used the idea of hygee to decorate their homes. It just did not resonate with me. That is just far too many candles and cozy blankets for my sanity. And, I know people adore KonMari method which empathizes minimalism and a tidy home as the path to happiness. But, while I could see what Marie Kondo was trying to accomplish, I don’t have that level of interest in tidiness to see it through. I felt like Goldilocks, this one was too cozy and this one was too cold.
However, Ikigai resonated with me as a way to find my own unique path to joy. A just right for me approach if you will. And, the most poignant part of the book for me was the selection which discusses “focusing illusion” or the grass-is-greener mentality. Ken Mogi emphasizes that happiness is accepting yourself today and finding joy in your path for tomorrow rather than believing happiness will happen when something occurs or if a goal is met.
This short book has really inspired me to accept who I am and be happy with that person. That doesn’t mean I need to live in stasis. Rather, developing my Ikigai will help me grow into the best version of myself.
Tell me, please!
Have you ever read a self-help book that really resonated with you?