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8 Ways to Achieve a Life of Fulfilment Using an Old Japanese Concept

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The Japanese philosophy of Ikigai became established in the 8th century on the island territory of Okinawa. When translated, iki means ‘life’ and gai represents ‘hopeful expectation’. Ikigai promotes ‘the individual’s raison d’etre’ or ‘reason to be throughout a long and meaningful life’.

Guided by a simple framework, it encourages each one of us to seek an ideal balance of life’s needs in relation to our personalities. A successfully fulfilling career is not necessarily one that only exists at a high-flying executive level but one that harmonises with the unique qualities of your inner-self. Achieving this balanced contentment is the surest route to a long, worthwhile and healthy life.

Here are 8 tips to help you achieve fulfilment using the Ikigai framework:

1. Discover your Unique Ikigai

On a sheet of paper, draw four circles that overlap in the centre. Each section represents the motives that directly affect your life: what you excel at, what you adore, how you can earn and if your skill is of use to anyone.

The ultimate aim is to adapt your career to ensure your personal fulfilment. When compiling your chart, remember the phrase ‘to your own self be true’. Only by being honest will you find your Ikigai and real purpose in your life and career.

For instance, if your Ikigai chart reveals a love of plants but in reality, you’re stifled by an office environment, a career in horticulture might be of greater benefit to your personal well-being.

2. Spare Time for the Present

Planning for the future is part of building a life that realises ambitions and ensures financial security. However, Ikigai is a reminder that a personal journey through life should also value the present. Time can never be recaptured so pause occasionally to appreciate the unique opportunities of each day. Enrich the quality of today by spontaneously visiting an exhibition, trying a new hobby or relaxing with a favourite book.

3. Harness Energy from Nature

Japanese culture places a great value on the restorative forces of nature. Appreciating an inspiring landscape of majestic forests, hills or lakes restores balance to a stressful life. Its powerful antiquity is reassuring and calming. Admiring the intricate beauty of flowers or listening to birds singing, reminds you of the harmony to be found in nature. The force of the natural world helps put your own existence into perspective renewing your energy and purpose.

4. Learn to Remain Active

Aim to extend the usefulness of your physical life by establishing a routine of regular exercise. As you get older, try adopting gentler activities such as walking, yoga or tai chi. Keeping your muscles and joints supple and flexible is important in maintaining mobility when pursuing a career in your later years.

5. Eat for Health

To achieve a life of worthwhile longevity with the assistance of Ikigai, you need to keep your body balanced with natural, healthy food. There isn’t a diet to follow, simply an awareness of consuming balanced amounts of essential vitamins and minerals through fresh ingredients. It is a Japanese tradition to practise hara hachi bu, a regime where meals leave you feeling around 20% hungry. It accelerates your digestive metabolism which then quickly raises your energy levels.

6. Seek Inspirational Companionship

Balance the energy to be gained during bouts of solitary contemplation with the warmth of good company. Enjoy stimulating conversation to keep your mind sharp. Relaxation and laughter amongst friends are essential for your well-being. However, Ikigai isn’t all about yourself. Maintain an ideal balance by sparing time for relatives and friends who might be in more need of companionship than you are.

7. Avoid a Worthless Retirement

The philosophy of Ikigai is primarily to achieve purpose, energy and fulfilment throughout a long, contented life. The Japanese belief is that total retirement from a useful working life is detrimental to physical and emotional fulfilment. It’s important that every day should still have a worthwhile purpose and motivation, factors that are especially beneficial in old age. When the time is right, followers of Ikigai continue useful employment by simply exchanging high-flying careers for roles that are less demanding.

8. Be Adaptable

Using the philosophy of Ikigai, allows you to regularly reassess whether your career is still suited to the ever-changing circumstances of your life. By honestly reflecting on what you enjoy and accomplish well, then seeking to combine this knowledge with earning a financial reward is a method of retaining motivation and following a useful existence throughout your life.

Ikigai helps you understand how you can achieve and benefit from a fulfilling career that is uniquely tailored to your individual personality.

Billy White is part of the writing team behind E88 Bangkok, the Bangkok-based creative space specifically designed for nurturing creativity. He likes to write about tech, lifestyle, freelancing, and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Bryce

    Jul 2, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Totally agree with number 5. Seems like people these days get too caught up in strict diets that label some foods bad and some foods good. Personally, I just try to mostly eat whole foods and pay attention to how my body responds to them. If something’s not working or if I just don’t like it, then I cut it out. Don’t need to overthink it!

  2. Bestyquote

    Jul 2, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Yeah. The old Japanese saying is till now proving true as i tested it till now.
    In most cases these sayings help me in sorting my problems.
    So it is amazing post i ever read. Thanks

  3. Rohan Jackson

    Jul 2, 2019 at 3:13 am

    Really nice to read.
    Thank you for such an interesting post.

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Life

Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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Life

5 Things You Can Do to Fend off Boredom and Stay Focused

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Curiosity is human nature and it’s only natural that humans will lose interest in a topic after a while. This has been a topic that has been extensively explored among children, teenagers and adults by a psychologist with similar results being reported from each of the categories. Human’s minds are therefore prone to boredom, making it important for each professional to spend some time to understand the factors that drive boredom and strategies the individuals needs to use to overcome boredom and focus on their profession and development. (more…)

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Life

Decision and Failure: Deciding That Failure is Not an Option

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Nobody likes wasting time, money or opportunities by making a bad business decision. We can certainly identify what “bad” looks and feels like, however we should be identifying what the “win” looks like too. Too often we focus on the bad, which puts us in victim mode that perpetuates a scarcity mindset which leads us directly into becoming frozen or stuck. (more…)

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