Searching for ikigai: a personal note

By Jeroen Mulder - juni 7, 2022

I’ve been searching for Ikigai for quite some time. For those of you who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about: Ikigai is often referred to as something to get out of bed for. Something that makes life worth living. These are big words, but in its very essence it’s about passion. Ikigai binds four elements that form passion: what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for and what you are good at.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept, but it has found its way throughout the world, especially in professional environments. Coaches will guide professionals in searching their ikigai. That starts with answering the question of what you really love to do. In my case the answer to that question is: share knowledge. I found out that I can get paid for this, for instance by writing books. Luckily, I’m quite reasonable in writing – I dare say so. 

Then there’s one question left to answer: is it something the world needs? I do think so. I truly believe that I’m helping others by writing these books and thus sharing knowledge. Otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense. 

That’s my purpose. It makes me jump out of bed every morning. Well… if I’m feeling well enough to jump out of bed. Because there’s one thing critical in the process of finding your ikigai and that’s the feeling of well-being. The search for ikigai and feeling well go alongside, the one doesn’t go without the other. 

What defines wellness? That starts with health, both physical as mental. Again, in my experience the one doesn’t go without the other. Here’s a personal story. Back in 2016 I weighed over 130 kilogram and felt terrible. I had literally no energy and dragged myself through the days. I did what I had to do as part of my job, but absolutely nothing more. Then health issues kicked in quite severely. That was my turning point. 

I knew what I loved to do, what my purpose was. I just couldn’t find the energy. My ikigai was left unrealized because of ignoring my health condition. Ikigai gives energy, but you need energy to start working with your ikigai. In my case it meant that I needed to lose weight. It meant a radical change of lifestyle. I started exercising, doing long distance walks and even running. In October I plan to run my first half-marathon ever. 

I still need to lose weight, no mistake about that. But at least I found the energy to work with my ikigai. I try to follow the rules of my ikigai.

Never quit. Stay active. Always.

Take it easy, though. (This one is really hard for me).

Less is more when it comes to food.

Surround yourself with good, true friends. (Facebook friends do not count. Sorry.)

Improve your health condition before your next birthday.

Smile.

Go out and enjoy nature.

Be grateful.

Follow your ikigai. 

Quite some people know this story and asked me to start writing about my journey, my search for ikigai. That project has already been in the making for over two years. But something is holding me back to get it on paper. The excuse is that I still have a number of other professional projects that I’m working on. Books on transformation and cloud technology. But a book on my personal transformation  – and the frustration that is an integrated part of it – remains a plan. 

The question is: would such a book add anything to the zillion lifestyle books that are already out there?  Is it something the world needs? Most of these books are vanity, let’s be honest. My ikigai, my journey, doesn’t say anything about your journey. It’s a strictly personal experience. 

I can write. Sure. About my journey so far, about the preparation for a half-marathon and about the 400k-trail that I’m planning to walk coming year. Following the footsteps of Jacob van Lennep who walked across our country in 1823. I’ll be (attempting to) doing the same two hundred years later. It’s all part of my purpose, my ikigai. 

I might be writing about it, after all. But I won’t be telling you what to eat, when to exercise, how to change your lifestyle and to start preparing for marathons. Except for the rules that I mentioned above. That’s it and that’s all you need to know. For the rest it will just be me. Walking. 

Being happy in following my ikigai.

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