Ikigai

960 Relax and Succeed - Ikigai The reason to get up in the morningEven though they may not know the concept abstractly, when you listen to people discuss their work complaints they will always focus on where they can feel that their Ikigai has lost balance. The term is composed by compounding two ideas: iki which is to be alive; and kai, which is the worthwhile result of your being, otherwise stated as your reason for being, your motivation, or the meaning to your existence. Your raison d’etre. I’m sure you can feel the pull of that sensation just reading about it.

One way to help define Ikigai in your life is that it will not change in good times or in bad. Someone who loves firefighting will love it as much in the firehall as they will at a fire. A true writer will enjoy the research for their new book as much as they enjoy the writing of it. And almost everyone who works in a refugee camp will face daily tragedy and yet they continue with an enthusiasm and energy rarely seen in the corporate world.

Bruce Lee did it with martial arts, Prince did it with music, Kurosawa did it with film. My father did it with a roofing company. If that last one doesn’t seem to fit as well, that might point to your misunderstandings about its nature.

960 Relax and Succeed - IkigaiTo move around the concept; my father enjoyed earning his pay by doing the same level of work he would do on his own home. In doing so he would create value by making someone else’s home and property more secure and by providing for his own family. He also loved the feeling of great satisfaction that he took from his customer’s satisfaction, and in all the years he ran the company I can recall my father being taken advantage of twice, but I have no recollection at all of an unhappy customer. I also have no recollection of my father ever complaining about his job, he only preferred when it wasn’t raining so he could do it.

There is no shortage of unfulfilled office workers who derive no personal joy or meaning from their work. There is also no shortage of chronically poverty-stricken artists who have trouble finding or transmitting the value in what they do. Even among the “successful,” there are doctors who care and doctors who like expensive cars.

It is important to note, however, that the existence of a Porsche doesn’t translate to an absence of ikigai. Sometimes–but not always–great personal gain can come from the pursuit of our ikigai. But to the individual the gains will be irrelevant. If they were fantastically wealthy they would still pursue their ikigai; if they were not paid at all they would still do it with equal zeal. Wayne Dyer didn’t need money to motivated him, nor does Yo-Yo Ma. Once you are fed and sheltered nothing you can buy can offer more life satisfaction than your ikigai.

960 Relax and Succeed - These are free rangeLook at your life. Where is it out of balance? Because if you look at the stresses in this world they can easily be attributed to the fact that so many people are not balanced in this way. To do unfulfilling work with unappreciative people in a largely meaningless way is to court a type of death. It is one thing to make a beautiful cake that will be consumed only hours later in joy, and another thing altogether to make a cheap plastic toy that won’t survive the birthday party.

Today’s youth can sense the lack of ikigai in their parent’s lives. They feel the tension, the anger, the frustration and the lack of satisfaction. How many children in the world hear their parents discuss their life’s work with passion? What did you hear as a child, and if you have children what do they hear you communicate about your work? What emotional state would they most closely associate with your work?

You have not failed if you have not found your place yet. The journey itself is a honing process. But it is important to keep this concept in mind. Many people would never have taken promotions or jobs or would have never left the children in a day-home, etc. etc. etc. if they had paid more attention to the notion of ikigai.

Be still. Spend some real time meditating on this. You are not finding a mystery, you are realising your true self. You cannot get this wrong any more than you can get your favourite colour wrong. The only thing you can do is to never ask the question, which in a way is like never actually starting to live at all. It’s in you. Find it and release it. We’re waiting for you.

With love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Made to Order

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #5

Despite how parts of it are sold, society is a cooperation not a competition. Traffic, infrastructure, schools, corporate structures, the internet; these are all things that were designed to help us cooperate.

903 Relax and Succeed -Calvin and Hobbes
The Story Behind This Cartoon

Our societal cooperation works best when each of us intentionally aligns our deepest self with the larger goal. So for some big startup company to succeed it needs someone who wants to lock themselves away alone to do some deep, complex thinking. But it also needs bold, talkative, likeable salespeople who’re good at managing grey areas, and those salespeople all have to be different to appeal to different clients. Then the organisation will also need accounting and legal staff that then turns grey areas into black and white. Etc. etc.

It is called an organisation because it is the coordination of all of these very disparate and even conflicting skill sets. So the saleswoman intentionally generates grey area to achieve a sale only for accounting to have to slice all the grey into neat little boxes. One person’s work literally creates the other person’s work. Nothing’s wrong there, it’s just the nature of an organisation.

The challenge occurs when a catch-all idea tries to encapsulate all of these complex relationships. We see this most often in schools, where it used to be presumed that some students were strong in some subjects and not in others. Now if you’re a good student you’re not allowed to be a human with natural skill set. Now a good student gets good grades in everything.

903 Relax and Succeed - Action without visionStudents are no longer their experiences, now they are just the memories in their brain. In turn their brain is seen as a computer to be programmed, and the notion is that the same process applies to programming math skills as reading skills when that is simply not the case.

Some kids look out their bedroom window and see the stars move each night and they wonder about those movements and they get good at math because they are innately interested in becoming a cosmologist. Some can’t sit still in class and they become world-renowned ballerina, Karen Kain. Some aren’t good at math but they’re good at understanding complex physical relationships, as was the case with the physicist, Albert Einstein.

Those are not people who succeeded because they got good grades and fit into the boxes at school really neatly. These are people who had just the right conditions to become fully themselves, even when that self conflicted with some pattern that society found convenient. Yes, we want to see ourselves as a part of larger society, but we don’t want salespeople to start acting like accountants any more than we want accountants to act like salespeople.

903 Relax and Succeed - Notable college dropouts

Real drive, real success and real happiness do not come from good grades, good pay and people approving of you. You’ll get all the approval you need from yourself if you’re realising your inner motivations and then working hard to achieve them. Because that doesn’t even feel like work–it just feels like the steps you need to take to get you where you’re going.

Yes, we all need to do reasonably well in school because those basic skills do end up way more important than any kid realises up until they’re about 25 years old. But we shouldn’t panic if someone struggles in a subject or their grades are average. College is no guarantee of a good life, but knowing how to realise yourself through diligent work is. If something matters enough to someone they’ll work incredibly hard at it whether that’s in a college or outside of it.

Do not treat kids like pegs to fit into holes. They are all individuals and as much as a hassle it might be for a parent or teacher to have Karen Kain and Steve Jobs in the same class, it’s important to remember that the school is a construct not a natural occurrence. Meaning we should be less invested in things like grades and more focused on seeing if the kids themselves feel like they are expanding.

Too many of our pressures on kids have to do with conforming and getting into line. Yes, teach kids to be good, solid cooperative citizens. But not at the price of choking off their spirit, because if that’s intact it will drive their intellect to create not only great things, but also a great life.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Just The Job for You

We have looked at how your national identity contributes to how you see yourself. We’ve looked at how your daily habits point to signs of who you really are. Now we shift to things you’ve been more active in choosing. These things will always have important wisdom hidden within them.

876 Relax and Succeed - The most decisive actions

For the most part you choose your job. Even if it feels like you didn’t, if you really look at it closely you’ll usually see that there were other options but the job you’re in seemed the best fit for who you feel you are. You could have not done anything at all. That would say something about how your mind works too. Your whole life is shaped by these tiny little choices all day long.

Even if you’re a shy person in an more extroverted job you’ll still find shy ways to be extroverted. So look at your workday. What do you do that you don’t need to? What do you avoid that you shouldn’t? What do you like about your job? What don’t you like about it? Who don’t you like at work and why in the most basic terms? Who do you like, expressed in the most basic terms?

Don’t tell yourself a big long narrative about these things. Stick to basics. Do you like control or do you seek to give it away? Are you irritated by people who want control or are you relieved that someone else is doing it? Do you volunteer for the difficult jobs or avoid them? Do you volunteer for the least desirable jobs or avoid them? What do you hate about your job? What do you love about it? Meditate on why.

876 Relax and Succeed - Both optimists and pessimists contributeDoes your job bring you into contact with a lot of people and that’s your favourite part, or does it force you to serve people one on one and that makes you nervous so you hide or avoid it with busy-work? Do you prefer being alone or working in groups? Do you like jobs where you can be certain you’re right or wrong (accounting, engineering, math teacher) or ones where the performance is judged more subjectively like a writer or priest or a social studies teacher?

The different nursing departments attract different types of people. Different classes attract different teachers. Firemen don’t mind some jobs and can’t stand others but they’ll all have different choices for which ones are which. People who like to serve and motivate and guide and focus a staff is one kind of leader and someone who likes to have total control to have people do their bidding is another kind of boss. Look at your life. What silent, quiet choices have you been making and what do they tell you about yourself?

Who’s your crowd at work? Ask yourself why you respect one person and not another and then ask yourself who would feel that way–you’ll be able to learn a lot from yourself from just that one short meditation. Why does one person make you feel safe and inspired while the other makes you feel worried and weak? Your entire life–even where you eat and with who and why–is good information. Study yourself.

876 Relax and Succeed - When do you bow downKnow thyself. Stop thinking thoughts about how you wish the world was and start using all of that energy to just quietly study yourself in action during your day. You’ll walk to the coffee pot and avoid some people’s desks but seek out others. Why? You’re procrastinating on this with something seemingly harder–why? You’re friends with one group at work but not another. Why? Etc. etc. etc.

Understand that all of these little invisible forces have shaped you into a collection of preferences. Your life unfolds from that Preferential DNA–a few key experiences in a variety of critical areas codes the rest of the decisions you make for the rest of your life. You are easily able to remodel those codes with experiences that intentionally undermine the value of the previous choices. But before you do that you have to figure out where you’re starting.

You’ve got an interesting day ahead of you. Enjoy it. This is a two-day meditation because you have a lot to find. Don’t forget to calendar it for tomorrow so that you remember to study yourself at work. Turn work into a way of learning more about who you accidentally became.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

The Law of the Jungle

How good is your life balance between work, family and your social life and friendships? It’s tricky to do, and the constant connectivity of smartphones means you never really leave work. The question is, how much work do you need for success, what kind of success should you target, and how far do you go on that road before it’s too far? When’s work billing life for too much? When are you just being asked to be dedicated and when are you being asked to be abused?

762 Relax and Succeed - Your value doesn't decreaseAmazon is famous for its brutal corporate culture. Weird eh? They brag about it. Can you imagine if we were back in the days of Kings and Queens ruling everything, where your livelihood was entirely in their hands just like it is now, and you happened to live under the King who was a selfish jerk and then bragged about how bad he treated you? That would suck.

The thing is, you probably moved into the neighbourhood intentionally. You may have very actively sought to live under that King. Many many many people–yes me included–have worked towards external goals like wealth or power, but these are really all just attempts to to feel loved and respected. We want people to be impressed by us rather than to love our own lives by feeling connected strongly to our work. (See the second video in last week’s Friday Dose.)

If you go to somewhere like Amazon because they have their oar in some water that you believe in then you can sustain that for a career. You can love creating value for others, but that must be weighed against the cost that King exacts on his kingdom.

762 Relax and Succeed - What's money A man is a successShareholder Value is a much more ethereal thing that most people realize, and no one lays on their deathbed wishing they could stick around to make more money. But a nurse might welcome caring for one more patient. Or a carpenter might love building one more home he put real care into. Or a designer might want to create one last piece of jewelry. But if you’re only at your job for money and status then you’re most certainly doomed.

At your death-bed you’ll realize that neither money nor status goes with you. But the other folks have already lived the joyous moments of a connected life. They carry with them the sense of a life of real value and purpose because it wasn’t about themselves, it was about others. Their lives will carry forward. This is key. Otherwise you will crush yourself.

There’s no way I can criticize someone for pursuing hollow dreams when the nickname some girls painted on my gym bag in Junior High was “Mr. Billion.” I had my first business while I was still in high school. I bought new cars and stupidly expensive clothes. When you look into the face of a kid starving to death due to money, and you spent most people’s monthly wage on one outfit, you just realize you could have done a lot better. You could have made the kind of difference that you would really feel good about. And so next time you do.

762 Relax and Succeed - The poorer we are inwardlyWe’ve got a pretty good brainwashing system. No one did it by design. It just kind of tumbled this way accidentally. But schools train people to compete and win with grades, and then that principle gets converted into money when we’re in the workforce. It’s a treadmill and only half the people figure out their on it before they die, and even then it’s usually because they got really sick or someone significant died to remind them that time is limited and how do you want to spend yours?

Maybe this is the group I feel most compassionate toward in our society. They are trying to impress us and that’s exhausting. They’re making really big sacrifices to get and keep their money and they will eventually realize that it doesn’t create value in our life. You can easily be super rich, in a fantastic house with fantastic cars and with a fantastic spouse–but if you have a crappy way of thinking none of that other stuff will make any difference at all.

Don’t ask yourself what you want to “do” for a living. Ask yourself what you can really get passionate about–where work won’t even feel like work–and then find or create a place where you can do that. Because if you don’t figure that out, Amazon etc. might just convince you to live in the dog-eat-dog world of their corporate and claw-filled jungle.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #29

462 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - 97 percent of people

This is a classic case of one individual assuming that other individuals place the same value on the same things they do. They make that mistake the same way you do: because to them the sources of the value are obvious. But clearly one person can want to be the number one salesperson, while another person wants to be a good father, or someone else wants to work for a charity that prolonged a loved one’s life. These would all create different choices, priorities and paths through life. There’s lots of things to value in life, but because our cultures have such an addiction to money, many capitalists assume that because they want to be rich and in charge, that you want that too. So it’s assumed that if you didn’t become a wealthy entrepreneur that’s not because you didn’t want to, it’s because you couldn’t—because you gave up and you are therefore inferior to those who chose that particular priority. But of course many of us aren’t interested in the hassles associated with being in charge, just like many of us aren’t interested in great wealth, celebrity or prestige. We have our pursuits and others have theirs. None are more important than others. The only success there is in life is the joy of being alive. Everything else is disappears.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Thought Machine

I read your stuff and other similar stuff because I have a lot of pressure associated with my job. You have said that people “live in their thinking,” but I’m not getting what you mean with that. Could I get a clarification on that please, sir?

signed,
Under Pressure

Dear Pressure,

Cool. Thanks for asking. Let’s take a look at this “pressure” you’re under. What exactly is pressure? It’s the sensation you get when you use your power of thought to assess the amount to be done and the deadline, and yet your brain can already feel that you’re trying to fit 75 marbles into a 50 marble jar. So you can say you’re reacting to the “reality” of the situation, but your reality is formed by what you’re thinking about. That is your life experience.

429 Relax and Succeed - At God's footstool to confessThe chemical reaction of anxiety (aka pressure) is created in your mind by thinking about a future that has not yet happened. For all you know in one hour the boss could call and say there’s been a mistake, we’re adding a bunch of jar-space, we’re all good. That could happen. So the pressure isn’t about the actual situation because we won’t know what that is until we get to the deadline. The pressure is about your thoughts about what might happen. That’s pretty ephemeral. Relaxing and being happier starts to look easier and easier, doesn’t it?

Do you follow sports? Whether you do or you don’t, I’ll let you in on a well-known fact: the superstars are always intensely passionate about the game. They always have this zeal and you can somehow sense their intense desire to win. This comes from wanting to engage with every aspect of the sport. Despite the fact that they get checked twice as hard, they still excel. There is a drive that emerges from their passionate desire to understand what they are doing. They always want to know more. So rather than having minds busy with egocentric thoughts about their own comfort or status, elite athletes are constantly trying to pick up new skills to employ in their general pursuit of excellence.

429 Relax and Succeed - A mind that is stretchedForget thinking about what will happen around the work you’re doing. Just focus on the work. If there are 75 marbles and you have a 50 marble jar then write the appropriate memo outlining your concern and define when the situation will become critical, and then get back to work. Don’t think about anything that doesn’t put marbles in jars. Yes, that can include some pretty abstract ideas relating to human nature and behaviour, but bottom line your focus is on bettering your game, not on explaining any deficiencies, real or otherwise, or in imagining possible outcomes. Just focus on the moment you’re in.

The only way you can learn new tricks is to be watching the world around you closely. So stop thinking and start observing. Because there’s a whole world going on out here, and there’s cool discoveries being made every day. Immerse yourself in all that. Observe. As an activity. Just observe. No yakking. No self-talk. Just observing. No judgment. No opinion. No comment. Just observing. Remove the filter of You. Just Be. It’s a beautiful place to spend your day.

Have a great one. Make it that way. Turn your concerns into grace. It’s in you to do.

peace. s

Doing the Right Thing

I finished my degree and ever since I’ve just been spinning my wheels getting nowhere.
I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. How am I supposed to pick a career?

signed,
Paralysed

Dear Paralyzed,

You don’t. It picks you. Either that or you become a slave to something.286 Relax and Succeed - Remembering that I'll be dead soon

You know those things you do that don’t seem to have anything to do with work? Like the way you would organize your dad’s garage when you were ten even though it was really hard and no one asked you to? Or if you’d help in the kitchen and think it was fun? That’s what you should do for a career. That’s the job you should work: the thing that doesn’t feel like work. The thing you’d work your ass off to do even if you won the lottery. Do that and you’ll have loads of energy, you’ll naturally get really good at it, and it’ll never seem to take any unpleasant effort. The effort will always seem easy.

Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson was featured in over 200 recordings, he won 8 Grammy Awards and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. One of the things that he was best known for was his speed and precision. And yet both things were skills he possessed completely by accident.

First off, Peterson may well have been a trumpet player except that his childhood Tuberculosis pointed the way to the piano. He was dedicated and very good about practising, but there was this one particular recording that he was amazed by. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t 286 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes it falls upon a generationseem to figure out how to play it. But with that mystery came freedom. Because after he’d exhausted everything he knew, that only left him with inventions of his own.

So he tried everything he could think of—and eventually he did figure out how to do it. But he didn’t realize what a feat it truly was until over a decade later when he finally learned that the recording he was struggling to imitate had two piano players on it.

By not thinking about limits Peterson freed himself up to think about possibilities. By being innocent he did what it previously took two men to do. There’s no such thing as a genius. There are just people that do not see limits and they continue to ask questions and try things long after others have given up.

Do not use the brilliant capabilities of your mind to calculate perceived or trained limitations in yourself. Forget beliefs about what isn’t possible. It’s time to see your life another way. It’s time to see your possibilities. You are capable of much more than you currently realize. But that’s just it—you must realize that.

You don’t come to some sort of conclusion and then boom, you’re all calm and peaceful and spiritually finished. The realizing is a verb. It’s how we live our life. It’s Oscar Peterson practising for reasons even he can’t explain. He just wants to know. And by doing so, he expands the entire universe by proving that the impossible is once again possible. You want to find your thing like that, no matter how strange it might first seem. Pick the thing that doesn’t feel like work.

Maybe it’s about how to raise kids, or influence co-workers, or improve some tool or process. We’re naturally creative. But we have to stop trying to be good at everything and we have to start focusing on 286 Relax and Succeed - Clouds gone the mountains appearbeing ourselves. Because it doesn’t matter what other people think of your interests whether they involve English Literature, Star Trek, or spiders. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You only have one thing to do: quiet your mind so that you can hear yourself.

I know some parents who thought their son was wasting his time with toys long after he was a kid. Now that kid makes over $60,000 a year buying and selling toys on E-Bay. E-Bay didn’t even exist when the kid was born. How could he prepare or train for that? You don’t. So great, you have a degree, hopefully in a field that genuinely interests you. Now just follow your heart. You don’t want to be successful. You want to be gratified.

Peterson failed at learning that piano piece for a long time. But he kept playing not because he wanted to impress you and I. He did it because that’s who he was. And even if he wouldn’t have figured it out, he was still being himself by trying. Because there is no success or fail. There is only the living of our life, and for that to be rewarding we should trust ourselves to know our own direction.

peace. s