I love the concept of Ikigai (a Japanese word that is composed of two words: iki, which means life and gai, which describes value or worth) and I am convinced that you don’t just go and find your Ikigai. It goes way beyond “just” finding your purpose in life, which by the way is hard enough. What I believe instead one should strive for is, let me call it:
I find it important that you become all inclusive. Mental, spiritual and physical health, work-life balance or work-life integration, a healthy diet, find what you love to do and what you are passionate about, contribute to society, make a living, and, and, and. Everybody is different. What works for one, might not work for somebody else at all. In addition it’s changing, so stay flexible and keep an open mind. It’s a journey.
Your star will shine the brightest when all elements are strong and in a perfect equilibrium, whatever this means for you! Here it is important that you listen to your intuition as it will tell you what is right for you.
Growing up I always knew I wanted to do something with cars. My dad owned a drivers education school in Germany. I often joined him in the back seat starting at a very young age. Later I helped out with classes and did some one-on-one coaching with the students. I loved it!
As I wanted to learn more about cars, I decided to become a car mechanic (as my dad did when he was young). After a three year apprenticeship I knew that’s not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Change was needed.
My dad and I sat down and had an amazing discussion. I’m sure he would have loved to see me joining him and one day taking over his business, which was one of the options we explored. The other option was for me to go to college for mechanical engineering and automotive technology. As much as I would have loved to be a driving instructor, the schedule you have to work in Germany when you are one, didn’t appeal to me. You are always working when everybody else is off. It’s really hard to spend time with the family.
So I decided to go to college, which my dad supported 100%. To this day I’m very grateful that he did as he could have easily persuaded me into following his foot steps. That’s how I became an engineer. After college I could have stayed in my home town and started my career there. However I had this strong urge to move somewhere else and maybe even live abroad one day. I knew for sure that staying in the same place my entire life wasn’t in my fortune. Luckily I got a job in Regensburg. I found it to be my dream job. Great coworkers and friends, interesting and challenging work, and opportunities to learn and grow.
I gradually moved into project management which I found I had a passion for. This is when I felt like an entrepreneur for the first time. As I seemed to do really well with the team, customers and suppliers, taking on the challenge of leading a segment looked to be a good idea. And it was! I loved it! I was fortunate to have a colleague and friend who co-lead the segment with me. We had perfectly complimentary skills. This enabled us to be extremely successful. In case you are curious, here is an older post that describes my years in Regensburg more detailed:
A few years later I had an opportunity to go on an assignment to the US. I always wanted to have that experience abroad and especially in the US. My family supported it, my wife even had the same desire to one day live in the US, and off we went. Many new challenges were waiting for us. You can read more about some of them in my earlier posts:
I kept on learning, growing, adapting, and making changes!
Along the way, I went from being a hard core carnivore to being vegan. Not only that, my family also pays attention to what we eat and enjoys a very balanced and healthy diet. I practice Qigong, now started to do some Yoga and running, love to ride my road bike, and go on long hikes with my wife and the dogs. We love to spend time together and travel. My wife became a certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Reiki master. I find myself to be very healthy, which I’m grateful for every day. I haven’t had to take antibiotics since I was a few months old and hardly ever take any pharmaceutical drugs.
All these experiences and changes lead me to where, what, and who I am today. The journey continues! As you can see, at least for me, finding your Ikigai is not something you do once and you’re done. It’s an iterative and fun process that never stops.
Here is an interesting article that can get you started on the concept of Ikigai. Good food for thought.