Finding Your Ikigai (life's purpose)
Ikigai? What the heck is THAT?
Hey there, gang!
So, yesterday I hit *submit* to my developmental editor with my final (I think!) edits for my next book. The book is called “52 Week Intention Journal: Motivating Prompts to Encourage Reflection, Focus, and Meaningful Change” and it is scheduled to come out on March 29th. I am super psyched about it as it contains so much of what I work on and share with my Facebook community each day. 52 weeks of ideas, solutions, and advice on how to live a joyful and intentional life.
What is an intentional life? It means to live a life that is mindful…one that you are no longer simply an observer in, but an active participant. It means to rid yourself of mindlessly going through the motions each day by crafting a life that you love that sets your soul on fire. A life of intention is a life that makes you want to wake up in the morning and actually live it!
Of course, like with my last book (“5 Minute Gratitude Journal for Teen Boys”) I went through times of having that dreaded “imposter syndrome” which is normal for writers, I am told. Being a new author and new to the world of working with editors, publishers, marketing departments, etc., at times I simply cannot wrap my brain around the fact that I am actually being HIRED to write these books! Who the heck am I to be an author? It was only nine years ago that I was a drunken mess who didn’t shower and didn’t participate in life whatsoever!
But the thing is, I’ve worked my ass off in these past nine years. Every single one of these 52 ideas towards intentional living that I present in this new book is a strategy or tool that I used myself to get to where I am at today. As a matter of fact, I had about 62 weeks and had to decide which ten tools I was going to omit! I have ideas coming out of my ears (well….flying through my fingertips) and I am excited to share them!
Am I famous or something? Nope! But I do live an intentional life and I have found my life’s purpose and reason for loving to wake up each morning with excitement, joy, and purpose. At age 52 I have finally found “my thing” and I consider it a privilege to do what I do and that peeps want to learn from my experience.
When I remind myself of this, I quickly wave goodbye to “imposter syndrome” and recognize that I actually live these words that I wrote on paper (well….technically typed on my iMac) to share with the world. I’m no imposter!
In one of the early pages of the book, I talk about something called “ikigai.” I had no idea what this even was prior to doing research for the book, but when I came across this term I found a hotter than hot personal development book on the subject that apparently escaped my radar all these years until now! “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” came out in 2017 and currently has over 19,000 reviews on Amazon! Being that I am a personal development junkie (in addition to a GRATITUDE addict!), it is unreal to me that this book never entered into my life until now. But I read it from start to finish and loved every word.
What the heck IS ikigai? Basically, it is a Japanese concept meaning your reason for living. Your life’s purpose. The thing that sets your soul on fire. And the Japanese claim it is their secret to a long and happy life. When you find your ikigai you find your mission and what you are passionate about. Many peeps know what theirs is from an early age, and I always envied them. Many people have trouble finding it, and that is what I hope to help the reader accomplish with the tools I have laid out in the new book.
I was always mediocre to good at many things but never excelled at any one thing. I wanted to SO BADLY, but I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t creative, I wasn’t super talented at anything…and I really didn’t have a passion. My past history was to find something that I liked, get obsessed with it, overdo it, and then lose interest. THAT was the story of my first 50 years.
But I always felt there was something out there that I was meant to do. I didn’t know what that was and didn’t know how to set out finding it. I have a bachelor’s degree in speech communications, worked as a publicist in the music industry right out of college, worked for a few years in a kitchen and bath showroom (don’t ask…), then got married and had babies who I was fortunate enough to stay home with.
That is my resume. Not much to work with there being that I haven’t been working since the 90’s. Once the kids got older I loved being involved in their activities so I became one of those supermoms-PTA president, homeroom mom, scout leader….you know the drill. Oh yeah…I did co-found a non-profit theatre group for teens too. I love to be of service…that much I knew.
Then I got sick and became an alcoholic…so naturally, things came to a screeching halt. That led to that devastating rock bottom that I keep eluding to but not elaborating on….ha! (it’s coming! I promise!)
What happened after that rock bottom? Well, I found myself in rehab-a rehab that had a chronic pain program and taught us tips and tools to emotionally handle living with a chronic condition. My 30-day stay there was incredibly scary, helpful, confusing, fuzzy, and life-altering.
But I will tell you this, I went to rehab as a completely broken person. I was a drunk, a drunk driver, and a sick person (in many ways). I had done a vile thing that luckily I escaped from without hurting anyone else or myself. But still, as far as I was concerned, I had nothing left to offer the world. I was scum.
I’m not sure when or how I began to recognize that I’d been given the gift of a second chance, but luckily my self-loathing evolved into self-compassion. I worked hard at maintaining my sobriety, I worked hard in using the tools I’d been taught to help me live better with chronic pain, and I was willing to do anything to ensure that I would never go back to that dark place I found myself in prior to June 20, 2013.
Where does my ikigai come into this story? I would venture to say that it was in 2014 when I was asked to take over social media for the organization Chronic Pain Anonymous. I had started a meeting here locally so I could stay on the path of healing that I’d started on at rehab. I began feeling useful again. I started meeting others like me who lived with a chronic condition. We connected and shared and they appreciated what I did.
Isn’t that what we all want in life? To feel heard, understood, appreciated, and validated? I never thought I would achieve that again, but my sense of self-worth and purpose began growing and it felt so good! I was helping others while helping myself, and I began feeling my ikigai germinate inside of me.
The true big bang moment for me was on January 13, 2015, when I began my group “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain.” I wrote all about my community in a previous newsletter so I won’t get into details again, but growing this group while connecting with others all around the world felt so right to me. I wasn’t even sure if there were others out there like me who longed for a positive place rather than a place where we all bitch and moan all day about how wronged we are to be stricken or injured.
Look, venting is healthy and necessary, but like I’ve said before…eventually you need to knock it off and move on if you want to heal. Otherwise, you incarcerate yourself in the prison of your own mind and it is impossible to move forward towards joy.
A GRATITUDE group for people living with chronic pain? To many, it sounds funny and a contradiction in terms. But I felt like I was possibly onto something as we began growing…and growing…and growing. And the members were telling me that by incorporating GRATITUDE into their lives, it was helping them to actually LIVE again! I was getting comments such as: “this group has changed my life” or “I’ve been needing something like this and I didn’t even know it.”
Here’s what I found, GRATITUDE sparked the light that had died inside of me. It slowly dimmed the darkness and gifted me with an eternal glow that I carry with me today. It became a way of life that helped me to live out loud and savor my senses as I’d never savored them before. It took away my need to complain and showed me what a privilege it is to live and breathe and experience each moment that comes my way.
And because GRATITUDE is contagious, I spread it around…
Since starting the group, lots of amazing things have happened in my life that have morphed together to form my ikigai which now oozes out of me and has gifted me with a permanent smile on my face. I ambitiously took on a “GRATITUDE Project” in 2016 where I wrote an essay on a different thing I was GRATEFUL for each day on my Facebook account. I began my gratitudeaddict.com website. I created and host my weekly live broadcast which is all about GRATITUDE and living your best life despite life’s struggles.
This all led to being offered a book deal. And then another! I had been in the process of writing my own book about GRATITUDE and living with chronic illness when the first book deal came along. I almost turned it down actually, which makes me now cringe to even think about.
Now I am a published author, have two books under my belt, and I am so passionate about the work that I continue to do with the group, the broadcast, my writing, speaking, sharing, and growing of GRATITUDE. I know what my message and life’s passion is, and it came out of nowhere and presented itself to me when I wasn’t expecting it because I was open to receiving it.
This new life I’ve created for myself, and finding my ikigai, required lots of change. I had to be open to doing things in a new way, to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things, to look inside of myself and figure out why I do what I do, and to approach it all with a growth mindset and an attitude of GRATITUDE.
I recognized that I am owed NOTHING in this life. What I have is a blessing, and when I walk the walk of intention while embracing abundance, fear goes out the window and I step forth into a joyful and meaningful life.
As I say in the upcoming book, it is never too late to find your ikigai. And my friends, I am telling you, you NEVER know when it will present itself to you. Be open to new things. Take risks and step outside of your oh-so-comfortable comfort zone. Recognize your self-worth and own it! Connect with others. Spread your love and light. Life is too short to spend in a constant state of fear and lack.
By doing this, you will find what puts you in a state of flow and where you can lose yourself in happiness because you love it so much.
My name is Lauren, and I am an alcoholic. But I am also a GRATITUDE addict and so much more. Life is hard, but also exquisitely beautiful if you open your eyes to see, live, and experience it.
Until next time, gang!
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