Recently, I came across this Facebook post about Ikigai (生き甲斐]) a Japanese concept, meaning “a reason for being”. According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self.
How fortunate I am to have found my own Ikigai years ago. I didn’t know the term at the time, but I felt myself ‘being rooted’ when I first started working with Greenpeace, in India. No, even before that – I still remember the mounting sense of excitement I felt, reading that recruitment ad and ticking off their checklist. I knew I had learned – and was good at – my job, it involved all that I (then) knew and cared about, I saw how the world needed Greenpeace, and of course, I jumped at the opportunity to ‘get paid for’ the combination! That was it – no deep questions asked, no search of self required. I had my Ikigai.
In the years since, I’ve worked with a bunch of other organisations, of different types and sizes – indeed, some very effective campaigning groups that are too small to even be organised – and have found my centre strengthened for it. (Ok, so I always don’t get paid for it but I figure, if I have to sacrifice one quadrant, it better be that one! And it’s always been a conscious choice: I set up Cause Impact precisely so I could offer my support and professional advice to groups that needed help, but couldn’t always afford it.)
2015 brought me full circle, back to where I first found my Ikigai: Greenpeace India. I went back to ‘my home team’ – as I always thought of them – at a time they were under attack… but as we put it in the very first piece of content I helped to write while there, they
were are Undaunted, undefeated, unstoppable.
A few months in, and as 2016 began with the usual annual planning process, I found myself making a much larger commitment than I first intended to, and agreed to support the organisation’s team for this whole year, though one of my top priorities will be to help recruit a Comms Director to replace me. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make – but perhaps that search of self was long overdue?
“You love this work!” I told myself.
“You’re good at this,” they told me.
“It’ll be stable income,” my husband and business partners reminded me.
“They need me,” I told myself, “and the world needs this work; India matters more than ever before.”
But in the end, none of that really matters.
The truth is, I was only following my Ikigai.