Make no mistake. Following your purpose in life means taking care of yourself. Your health and your ikigai are connected.
Ikigai is unique to each of us. For some, ikigai means financial wealth, while for others it may be more relevant towards their relationships with the people they love. Ikigai may be as complex as organizing multiple teams to achieve a single goal or as simple as planting a garden. However, as different as each of our ikigai may be, we all share one critical factor in our success, a healthy lifestyle.
We see this in action through the success of those around us. If you listen to your mentors and others who have achieved a certain amount of success, you may hear that they speak to the amount of work and effort they had applied towards their goals. Some will talk about seeking opportunities and pursuing dreams, while others focus on skills, techniques, and persistence. Of course, all of these people are all spot on.
However, what is not so usually evident is that most of those who are walking in step with their ikigai are also in tune with their physical health, mental health, and social wellbeing. In no particular order, these are arguably the most interdependent factors you need to live a purposeful life. A deficit in any of these can make living your ikigai more difficult to achieve.
It should be no surprise to say that your physical health dictates your performance. According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, regular physical activity helps prevent disease, provides you with better sleep and wellness, and enhances your ability to perform daily tasks.
Like it or not, it means you have to exercise often. Exercising and taking care of your body builds the type of resilience and strength you need for a healthy life. Physical activities such as taking walks, riding a bicycle, going to the gym, playing a sport, doing aerobics, etc., helps you to build your stamina and muscle strength so your body is in the physical condition to meet the challenges of ikigai.
And, this is not for just losing a few pounds before the summer season begins. The type of physical fitness you need is habitual. It is something you must do regularly. So, consider your daily habits as they are now. Are you devoting any of your time to taking care of your physical well-being? If not, it may be time to start taking care of yourself more often.
A healthy diet
There’s a familiar saying, and make no mistake it’s quite true.
You are what you eat.
Indeed, it should go without saying that you have to be mindful of what you put into your body just as much, if not more than how often you burn calories. Excess in any amount of unhealthy food will certainly lead to an unhealthy body.
So, take a moment to ask yourself if you are paying attention to the types of food you normally consume. Are you contributing to the healthy lifestyle you deserve? Do you eat enough vegetables? Are you getting the right amount of nutrition for your body? Are you balancing your diet?
If you are not doing so already, consider how to moderate your diet and wean yourself off anything that is not helping you. By all means, if you are unsure of what types of food is good for you, or more importantly, good for your specific body type, consult a physician.
A well-balanced diet and regular exercise will contribute to your ikigai success.
Of course, physical activities and diet are only part of what you need for a long and happy life of ikigai. You must also exercise your brain. Whether you study your ikigai, explore other topics or just exercise your mind, continuous education should be just as routine as your efforts to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle.
By putting efforts towards your mental health you are able to position yourself more readily towards tackling the challenges that are par for the course. By arming yourself with the right knowledge, you build the necessary mental skills to get over obstacles.
Now, there may be some debate regarding the taxonomy of thinking skills, but for the sake of brevity let’s look at two types that perhaps encompass all: critical and creative.
Critical thinking skills
Critical thinking is often defined by a number of skills necessary for approaching and solving problems in a logical way. In order, analyzing, reasoning, evaluating, problem-solving, and decision making tend to build off each other. They form a continuous loop or road map to making rational decisions and improvements on your mission in life.
Whether a hobby or profession, every activity you engage in will require critical thinking to move forward. But what can you do to develop your skills? Is there any way to start right here, right now?
Indeed, you can enhance and develop your critical thinking skills by using the tools at your disposal. A simple search will show you hundreds of online courses, professional workshops, seminars, schools and so on. There are copious amounts of information on the internet that offer deep knowledge and insight into critical thinking. Research and consider what type of critical thinking skills might help you to the next stage of your ikigai.
Creative thinking skills
Critical thinking skills alone will not completely prepare you for the type of mental stimulation you need. You should also consider your creative skills such as brainstorming ideas or exploring options, practicing out-of-the-box thinking in which you look for not-so-obvious solutions, and my favorite, keeping a child’s mind in which you are inspired by the beauty that surrounds you.
Just as there are many options available to you to enhance your critical thinking skills, there are courses, online instructional videos and more to help you to develop your creative thinking skills. Research the various methods and choose one that interests you. Take some time each week to practice the creative techniques that you learn and apply your skills towards your ikigai.
Perhaps the most important thinking skill you should acquire is, in one word, mindfulness. It is the foundation from which you should develop and improve yourself. In a broad sense, it can be described simply as being paying attention to the little things in life, which incidentally is a key pillar to ikigai.
Focus on what you can do each day on your own to enhance your critical and creative thinking skills. Being mindful of yourself, your decisions, your actions and what influences them helps you recognize your own skills. Whether you are proficient in a certain area or just beginning to develop your skills, being aware of yourself brings a certain measure of confidence in which you can assert your intentions. Furthermore, if you are comfortable at where you are and how you got there, you will have gained the courage to follow through to the next step in your journey.
Being mindful of your surroundings as well provides an insight into how trends, anomalies and external events affect what you are doing and your plans. Paying attention to what is around you also helps bring a certain amount of appreciation for the events in your life. By practicing mindfulness, you will surely begin to build intrinsic critical and creative thinking skills.
Next, consider just how healthy your interpersonal relationships are. Are you socially active? Do you get out of the house and engage like-minded people? Are you sharing your ikigai with others, perhaps in groups or within your community? Social health is an important component for living out of a long and meaningful life.
Staying active with other people who share similar goals and passions will keep you on your game. Engage with family and friends. Encourage them to pursue their dreams. Be a mentor if you can.
Healthy relationships can also motivate you in your efforts towards improving your physical and mental health. You will find that supporting each other brings a sense of purpose that is highly satisfying.
Of course, if you are more comfortable with spending time going at it on your own and find socializing to be uncomfortable, consider a different route such as online. There are thousands of communities on the internet in which you can participate from the privacy of your own home. Simply by reading conversations and learning how others are living their ikigai can generate motivation to keep yourself active.
Among the few common aspects, we all share to live our ikigai (passion, mission, commitment), perhaps the most critical factors to your ability to live a long meaningful life are above all, health and wellness.
In basic terms, if your body is not up to the challenge, you will surely find it difficult to apply yourself fully. You could end up spending more and more of your precious time reacting to your health rather than pursuing your purpose. Essentially, you would be traversing a seemingly uphill journey.
Successful people will tell you to never give up and never stop dreaming. They will encourage you to find a way, work on the skills you need, and do everything you can to get past the fear so you can bring yourself to the next step in your life. And they are right in saying so but remember that you have to take care of yourself too.
- Be healthy and physically fit. Keep track of what you do to your body. Eat the right foods and control your physique.
- Condition your mind to build your expert authority so that you are on top of your game and pushing yourself forward.
- Stimulate your thought process by paying attention to yourself and your surroundings.
- Share your values, passions, and dreams with your friends, family, community and other like-minded people. Grow with them.
By paying attention to these aspects of your life, you are giving your body and mind the proper stimulation needed to fully enjoy ikigai. You will have the energy and excitement to live with purpose and potential. You owe it to yourself to keep your health and ikigai in tune. Indeed, you must demand it of yourself.
This is a part of ikigai.