Happiness versus Purpose and Meaning

There is a huge industry aimed at making us all happy, well documented in William Davies’ sceptical, The Happiness Industry. I quote: “The target is the entangling of hope and joy within infrastructures of measurement, surveillance and government”. Bleak but true.

But more and more research delineates between happiness in terms of pleasure and that of a sense of purpose and meaning. Well-being, defined as optimal experience and functioning, is viewed from two perspectives: Hedonic, focussing on happiness or pleasure attainment and pain avoidance; and Eudemonic, concentrating on meaning and self-realisation, and defined by the degree to which a person is fully functioning

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11148302

All these fancy words mean that our goals, particularly in middle age, shift from pleasure attainment and pain avoidance to looking for our own personal purpose and meaning – our raison d’etre.

Tim Ferris in the Four Hour Work week, describes his “happiness” as being excitement, and asks not, “What would make me happy?” but “What would excite me?” This is why we need adventure in our lives, but excitement is more like a passion than a purpose – it can fuel our purpose, and even guide us towards it, but your purpose is your reason for living.

I personally find that our happiness is governed by what we think the world owes us – that we are only as ‘happy’ as we feel we deserve to be.

Finding your Ikigai

The Japanese have a wonderful concept called Ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy) describing their reason of being, or reason to get out of bed. It is a dynamic, forever changing, search for that which makes life worthwhile, satisfying and meaningful. This is the essence of the Clayton’s Retirement, breaking down the lifetime conditioning of career paths and expectations, and rethinking our own individual reason for being.

Neuroscientist Ken Mogi in his book, The Little Book Of Ikigai, breaks it down in to five pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Starting small
  • Pillar 2: Releasing yourself
  • Pillar 3: Harmony and sustainability
  • Pillar 4: The joy of little things
  • Pillar 5: Being in the here and now

Starting Small

Baby steps. Create a routine, and start with adding purpose to your day-to-day customs. Get up thirty minutes earlier than you do now, and do twenty minutes of meditation, read a book, or go for a walk. These things are scientifically proven to stimulate your brain at a time when it is fresh and ready to absorb new information. Adjusting your routine now will help bring focus, and set good habits for when you are on your quest for adventure.

“Crucially, starting small is the hallmark of youthful days. When you are young, you cannot start things in a big way. Whatever you do, it does not matter much to the world. You need to start small. And what you have in abundance is open-mindedness and curiosity, the great kick starters devoted to one’s cause.” Ken Mogi

Releasing Yourself

Accept who you are. To quote the Simpsons, “We all make mistakes, that’s why there’s erasers on the end of pencils” Everyone has flaws and imperfections, and it is not what has happened to you but more how you respond that defines you.

“In a nutshell, in order to be happy, you need to accept yourself. Accepting yourselfis one of the most important and difficult tasks we face in our lives. Indeed, accepting oneself is one of the easiest, simplest and most rewarding things you do for yourself  – a low-budget, maintenance-free formula for being happy.

The epiphany here is that, paradoxically, accepting oneself as one is often involves releasing yourself, especially when there is an illusory self, which you hold to be desirable. You need to let go of the illusory self, in order to accept yourself and be happy.” Ken Mogi

Harmony and Sustainability

Even though we are all individually looking for our Ikigai, everything we do impacts others. Ken Mogi says it best…

“..on an individual level, ikigai is a motivational structure to keep you going, to help you get up in the morning and start doing chores. In Japanese culture, in addition, ikigai has much to do with being in harmony with the environment, with people around you and with society at large, without which sustainability is impossible”

Sustainability applies not only to man’s relation to nature, but also to the modes of individual activities within a social context. You should show adequate consideration for other people, and be mindful of the impact your actions might have on society at large. Ideally, every social activity should be sustainable.”

The Joy Of Little Things

Noticing the joy in small things brings me a sense of deep contentment. If one was to look at my Instagram account (jimdobbiness), I have assembled pictures (always square) of nothing in particular. I am fascinated with light and shade, and will often stop and photograph the clouds, light falling on a wall, or a pattern of colour. These are everyday things, and I could be doing something as mundane as grocery shopping or walking to my car – one photo is taken whilst cooking when I added the oil to the pan and another is the armrest of our sofa. There are countless others taken at home, in an environment you would think was so passé not to notice, but I find the joy of finding them has allowed me to still see whilst in the process of looking.

“Make the joy of little things work for you, then you can also start your ikigai in the morning.” Ken Mogi

Being in the Here and Now

We can’t see into the future, and the past is so distorted by perception, point of view and paradigms that its veracity is dubious at best. The past is fiction. We have all had activities where the time has just flown by (I call it time travel), by being so involved in the now. Enjoy the process, no matter how simple, repetitive or familiar, of the now you are in.

‘A child has no definite idea of the past or future. Their happiness resides in the present. It would be wonderful to maintain this throughout life.’

“So make music, even when nobody is listening. Draw a picture, when nobody is watching. Write a short story that no one will read. The inner joys and satisfaction will be more than enough to make you carry on with your life. If you have succeeded in doing so, then you have made yourself a master of being in the here and now.” Ken Mogi

Recommended reading: Ken Mogi’s book, The Little Book of IKIGAI: The Essential Japanese Way to Finding Your Purpose in Life. 

Recommended reading:Nicholas Kemp’s guide and workbook, Find your ikigai https://ikigaitribe.com/the-ikigai-ebook/

The Purpose Venn Diagram 

This illustration is (very) often wrongfully called the Ikigai diagram, where they have replaced the word Purpose with the word Ikigai. I have righted this wrong, and can also rightfully attribute it to its author Andres Zuzunaga.

Nonetheless, it is a useful diagram of what we want to achieve in this site, because it gives us the relationship between our purpose and income. Our purpose comprises a balance between our passion, our mission, our vocation and our profession.

© 2021 A Claytons Retirement