I first came across the philosophy of ikigai when I discovered and read the book by the same name. A book written by Francesc Miralles and Héctor García. It's the Japanese word that signifies 'a reason to live' or 'a reason to get out of bed in the morning'. It's a state of balance that represents the intersection of enjoyment, satisfaction, and contribution. And it's no surprise that knowing your ikigai can give you energy and help you live longer with greater happiness.
We spend our lives striving to find purpose. To be useful. To be challenged. To find something we're good at. And something we can continually enjoy. To connect with self and with others. Recognising your ikigai might be simple, or it might be something you've yet to discover. It might not be a single thing either. You might have several interests or activities that you're passionate about. These will probably shift over time as you grow or change your lifestyle. We live through and experience multiple chapters in life and we shouldn't have to attach ourselves to things, people, and expectations for the entirety of our lives. So your ikigai today, might not be your ikigai tomorrow, or in five, ten, even fifty years from now.
It's a strange thing, reading this book. As I made my way through the opening chapters and got a grasp of what ikigai means, I was unsure determining what mine was. Yet, the moment I turned the last page, it struck me. I have a lot diverse interests in life. Most of them simple pleasures that range between physical activities and technical craft. But none more so than rock climbing and understanding minimalism.
Climbing wasn't even on my radar until 2019 after watching the documentary Free Solo, which sees Alex Honnold solo climb (no safety equipment) El Capitan's 900-metre vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park. That took me down a rabbit hole of climbing disciplines and professional climbers, and it pushed me to give the thing a try myself (albeit indoors and only a few metres high). I loved it immediately and I haven't looked back since. Not only is it an incredible physical challenge that works every part of the body, it also has a huge mental aspect to it—battling fear, problem solving of the finest details, and when facing the real rock, being out in nature. I go to sleep dreaming about how to move my body across a piece of rock (real or artificial). I have an endless and sometimes frustrating drive to push my body to achieve certain goals in both bouldering and sport climbing disciplines—pushing my numbers. Numbers not to distract, but to give a sense of mission. Yet, the process of learning to move efficiently is often more rewarding than the success of completing a climb. I am only competing against myself and there's a certain serenity to that. Beyond the physical benefits, this sport is hugely social and inclusive. I have met some wonderful people, shared memorable moments, and that sense of community, which I do my best to encourage, is reason enough to turn up day after day with energy.
Product design is my primary occupation and crafting things for screens is something I enjoy doing year after year. It poses an endless creative challenge to keep pace with standards, emerging tech, peers, trends, and sometimes defying those trends in the pursuit of simplicity. And through simplicity, I find myself diving deeper into the principle of minimalism and understanding its nuances. I have a focus and determination to find the purest solution to communicate with people through visual design. But I also see myself as a student constantly learning about the application of minimalism across art, design, and daily life. Exploring geometric forms, pure aesthetics, reductiveness, essentialism, intentionality, and sustainability. Across different disciplines, timelines, and cultures. And creating a readership around this topic is hugely motivating for me.
These two areas of my life satisfy different aspects of my ikigai. Motivation and fulfilment come in the form of small details. With climbing, it could be unlocking a particular sequence of movements or finding flow, it could be completing a long-term project that I've trained weeks in preparation for, or it could simply be travelling with friends to visit a part of the world that offers a wonderful natural environment. With understanding minimalism, it could be discovering and showcasing perfect examples of applied design, it could be reducing the number of items I own to relieve clutter and improve focus, or it could be learning how minimalism has impacted the lives of others and sharing those experiences as a source of encouragement and inspiration.
Are there other things I want to do in life? Absolutely. So things will likely change in future. But it's hard to tell. Although new interests are inevitable, not everything will give me a sense of purpose. And that's okay. Because today is what's important.