The search for purpose: Let’s find our Ikigai 生き甲斐

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Before we begin:

If you’ve read any of my stuff before, particularly my work on Steal These Thoughts!, then you’ll know I have a somewhat obsession with human development and the exploration of meaning.

I’m of the opinion that having meaning in life is more important than happiness. Mainly because happiness is an emotional state, one that is fleeting and cannot be sustained. Whereas meaning is something that drives us, gives us a sense of being and will more likely provide the moments of happiness we seek.

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You are not defined by your parents blueprint

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A quick note before we begin:

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for sometime, it’s actually been in the works for nearly 8 months.

I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour and exploring why we do the things we do. As a society, mental health issues have been on a scary increase over the last 10-15 years and particularly in my generation, the anointed ‘millennials’.

I’m a believer in the fact that all of us in some way are dealing with the mechanics of a path and way of engaging with the world that we did not choose when we were infants, being most likely thrust upon us by those who raised us. As I’ve grown older, it’s become pretty clear to me that many of us struggle daily, because some of the things we have been taught in the environment from our younger years don’t actually help us live a good life now.

This post is not me telling you what to do, rather it’s a bunch of thoughts and insights that I feel can help you find some understanding in why you operate the way you do, whether that’s in how you think, feel or behave. It’s ultimately about recognising that you have a choice in everything in life and we have the power to change anything.

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Why choose traditional, when you can be original

All societies have their unique traditions. Whether it’s the way one would plan a wedding, host a family gathering or choose a career path. Traditions are woven into our lives but they can also be the thing which holds us back. 

You see, the sometimes blind thinking of “I must do it this way because it’s tradition’ has long kept many from doing what they really want to.

Traditions can be tough to break. Yet, choosing something original, something of your own, could well be the thing that unlocks your potential to grow and be the person you want to be. Not the person that tradition and other people expect you to be.

Let me share two examples of this with you.

One is the cultural phenomenon (to me anyway) of weddings. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been to at least one wedding in our lives. Like me, I’m sure you’ve noticed the almost military-like planning and execution these events have.

This is an event that is steeped in tradition, but also one that causes the most anxiety for many people in it’s planning. 

I’ve never quite understood why the planning is so difficult since the same blueprint is used by 99% of the population. Yet, these events always come with their stress and sometimes this comes from wanting to do something different.

I’ve met many people during their marital preparations who want to divert from the traditional model of a wedding ceremony. They want something simple just for them. However, they are scared of what other people will think. They fear the silent (and not so silent) judgement from loved ones on breaking tradition.

This is a real shame in my eyes. Their pursuit of originality which brings them joy is crushed by the weight of expectation to follow tradition.

Of course, not everyone does this. Many stick up two fingers to the concept of tradition and blaze a new trail. Kudos to you if you’re doing that too.

You’ve got to pause and think. This tradition you’re following was once an original idea and it became a tradition because others adopted it as a what good looks like model. This means that any other original ideas we come up with can be turned into new traditions too.

I also see the constraints of tradition affect many of us in the path of life.

When I say path of life, I’m referring to the ever popular chain of get an education, find a stable job, find a partner, buy a house and have children then die. I’m aware in that short sentence it sounds less than appealing and morbid.

Nonetheless, this is the well trodden path that is deeply ingrained into our way of being.

Deferring from this ‘plan’ is seen as some kind of sin that equates to you being abnormal. If you want those things then great. But, if you don’t want those things, then what? Should you be held by the constraints of tradition too? Or will you choose the path of originality and decide how this plays out on your terms?

We’ve seen many more examples in the last decade of people rejecting this selected path.

From those shunning formal university education to become online entrepreneurs, to those who choose not to have children and even those who decide that buying a traditional house is not for them, and instead build their own tiny house.

Originality is starting to spill out more these days. You just have to take a look around to see it.

Here’s some final words I want to leave you with.

Traditions are beautiful things that can bind us together and connect with our history. I’m not saying they are bad. Yet, if you’re falling prey to the constraints of tradition as you try to pursue your own way of living, then perhaps it’s time to embrace originality and do something of your own.

Who knows, perhaps one day that thing you do instead turns into a new tradition for someone tomorrow.

We all get one life with a finite amount of moments. So, don’t be constrained by traditions and the thoughts of others.

How to solve a problem: The art of beginning at the end

Bloody problems, we spend our life trying to avoid them, navigating them and sometimes drowning under them.

Nobody likes problems. But, we all know they are necessary for our growth during the short time we occupy this world. Without problems, I would dare say the world would be a rather boring and un-progressive place.

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