Three unrelated instances led me to write this piece.

A couple of months ago browsing through the wellness section of the Sunday Times, I came across the word IKIGAI which is an old Japanese concept espousing the art of living life.

Around the same time, while working on creating learning content for one of our multinational client project, I was requested to build in a half-day session on IKIGAI to enable participants to learn to find their purpose in life.

Then a few weeks back while browsing through books at my favourite Crossword bookshop, I came across this very interesting book on IKIGAI temptingly displayed on the international best sellers section. I couldn’t resist picking it up.

Since then I have not just read the book but have been intrigued enough to research it on google and devour all possible information I could lay my eyes and hands on. Being in the field of learning and development, it was but obvious that I started finding links between how IKIGAI could be used/applied to enhance our own learning journeys. And also bring value to those who we are trying to impart learning to, whether as an organization or as learning experts. Here are the key nuggets that I found very relevant:

  1. Finding Purpose – Ikigai beautifully positions 4 key motives which drive us in life namely Passion, Mission, Profession and Vocation. If we are able to honestly answer the questions of:
  • What is it that we love?
  • What is it that we are good at?
  • What does the world need?
  • What we can be paid for?

Then we have discovered our IKIGAI or life’s purpose. This can be done at an individual, team or organization level.  And once we have clarity on what is our purpose we can begin to build or enhance our skills with focussed learning interventions in that direction. This way we will not just get better at what we love to do but work will not feel like work since it is the reason for our getting up in the morning each day.

  1. WABI SABI – According to IKIGAI, this concept shows us the beauty of the fleeting, changeable and imperfect nature of the world around us. Instead of searching for beauty in perfection we should look for it in things which are incomplete. Linking this to our own learning we must not keep comparing our knowledge and skills to someone else, instead focus on improving ourself and becoming a better version of what we were yesterday. But at the same revelling in our fluid state of imperfection. Because if we become perfect then the learning stops.
  2. Antifragility – This is one step beyond building resilience. It means not just to become stoic when faced with difficulties but actually become stronger in crisis. The biggest failures and catastrophes give us more valuable lessons than any success ever could. So what is critical to be able to survive and become stronger in this millennial world for us? It is most definitely to build alternate skills so that we can create more options for ourselves both as a profession and beyond. Like in Japan there is no word which means ‘to retire’ so should be in our life too. We must strive to continue doing what we love and are good at till as long as physically possible.
  3. Power of Flow – To be able to truly learn, we must imbibe the power of flow which means to be present 100% in the moment of learning. We can internalize new learning only by doing what we know we have to do to improve, knowing how to do it, knowing how well we are doing through this learning journey, perceiving and dealing with challenges faced and being free from distractions while doing it.
  4. Keep Moving – IKIGAI says we don’t need heavy exercising in the gym to stay fit. It’s important to just keep moving ourselves. Same it is with learning, it’s not important how we are learning. It could be through e-learning modules, game-based, classroom or experiential formats of learning. Every learner is different. And the same technique doesn’t fit all. So as long as we recognise the need to learn and keep moving in that direction we will be fine. Every day is an opportunity to trigger new learning and even simple habits like maintaining a learning log or acquiring new skills (even if they are beyond work – like cooking, driving etc) can help us stay motivated.
  5. Active Mind – leads to a youthful body as per IKIGAI we must keep giving the brain new stimuli to keep it active. Basically, as we grow older we start finding comfort in routines. Doing the same thing which we are used to however leads us to stop using our brain which results in senility eventually. It is important to keep challenging the brain with new information. This comes from trying to do new things or facing change. Hence we must keep ourselves in learning mode no matter what our age.

I would like to wrap up by quoting a line from the book on IKIGAI itself – “ We don’t create meaning in our life…we discover it.” And the only way we can do that is by staying unwaveringly on the journey of learning and self- discovery.

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