I have seen my mother waking up early every day and going about her household chores in about the same systematic manner every day, without getting bored, or without any complaints or any expectations, through all ups and downs, for as long as I can remember. Even as she nears the age of 70 and with all her children away from home, she continues to do that even today without fail. She rarely goes out and she has been fairly content with this life and routine even if nobody expressed any gratitude at times. It's as if she had her Ikigai (the reason for getting up in the morning) in the little rituals in her daily routine. As neuroscientist and author Dr. Ken Mogi has mentioned in his 'The little book of Ikigai: The secret Japanese way to live a happy and Long Life' that
If you can achieve the psychological state of ‘flow’, as described by the Hungarian-born American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you will get the most out of ikigai, and things such as daily chores will even become enjoyable. You won’t feel the need to have your work or efforts recognized, you won’t be looking for a reward of any sort. The idea of living in a continuous state of bliss, without searching for immediate gratification through external recognition, is suddenly within your reach.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.
In an era and in a society, where our worth or our purpose or reason to go on relies majorly on instant gratifications, acknowledgements, achievements, or success, we are often so stressed that we overlook the small things that give us joy. We even stop enjoying the work we do, even if that is what we have desired for long. So, when the purpose or reason to go on is achieved, we often find ourselves in a sense of emptiness that pushes many of us into depression, or in a state of hopelessness. Even in our day-to-day lives, when we are not working, we feel a sense of void which we often fill with over-consumption viz., buying material things even if we do not need them, over-eating or binge-eating, looking through irrelevant content on the internet or social media, sharing too much about ourselves on social media, etc.
Then what good is that success if it does not bring us happiness or contentment in the long run?
So, while we are in the run for our achievements, success, or acknowledgements, it is always worthwhile to allow ourselves to contemplate, to relish, to develop hobbies, and appreciate all the little joys and simple pleasures that help us keep a balance between work and life. This also helps us in gaining a good sense of self, helps us in making ourselves better, and improves our relationships.
As Dr. Ken Mogi says:
Ikigai is about discovering, defining and appreciating those of life's pleasures that have meaning for you even if no one sees that particular value.
Also instead of competing with others which leads to more stress, the competition should be with our own selves to become better at what we do, and thus striving for perfection. Again as Dr. Ken Mogi would say, we should strive for Kodawari.
Kodawari is a personal standard, to which the individual adheres in a steadfast manner. It is often, though not always, used in reference to a level of quality, or professionalism to which the individual holds. It is an attitude, often maintained throughout one’s life, constituting a central element of ikigai.
No matter where we are or what we do, if we develop the habit of relishing and appreciating the little joys in our day-to-day life, if we strive for Kodawari, we will have our Ikigai and with that, we are bound to be happier and more content.
We can look for the little joys in:
The morning sun rays streaming through the trees
Going for a walk in the park
Enjoying a cool breeze after a walk
Taking care of plants, watching new leaves grow or blooming of flowers in our garden plants.
The aroma and sip of the first morning coffee or tea
Solving the Sudoku riddle in the newspaper along with the morning coffee
Listening to the chirping of the birds while drinking your first cuppa in your balcony
Listening to your cute little niece/nephew call out to you in their sweet voice
Enjoying a movie with your loved one(s)
Meeting up with an old friend
Maintaining a daily journal or a planner
Chatting with an old friend over a cup of coffee
Having your favourite apple pie at your favourite joint
A relaxing bath at the end of the day
Reading a book
Learning a new craft
Completing a craft
Watching the sunset
Sleeping in freshly washed bed linens
Achieving little exercise goals
Cooking a favourite dish for your loved one(s) and watching them relish it
Trying out different cuisines
Enjoying the sun on your back on an idle winter afternoon while chatting with your loved ones on the terrace/garden/balcony
Keeping company with your partner or spouse when he/she is working late (from home)
Laughing with your partner or spouse
Making someone smile
Cosying up in your favourite corner after a tiring day with your favourite drink and a book
Preparing a simple yet delicious and healthy breakfast
What is your Ikigai? What are the little joys in your day-to-day life?
This Saturday, as I was looking for a simple egg sandwich recipe for breakfast, I came across this simple Japanese Egg Sandwich recipe (Tamago Sando), which is not only very easy to prepare but also healthy and tasty.
After our breakfast with Tamago Sando, when I asked K (who lives to eat, by his own admission) to rate the food, he immediately answered 9.5 out of 10. Upon asking about the reason for 0.5 point deduction, he immediately quipped that 'if you are given full marks, there will remain no room for improvement!'
[Methought Kodawari it is for me then in making Tamago Sando until I score a 10...]
** Recipe for Tamago Sando **
Ingredients for two:-
4 pieces of sweet milk bread (large) (Alternate for Shokupan-The Japanese Pullman Bread)
3 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cube of grated Amul cheese (Instead of mayonnaise as it has lower fat content)
Ground Black pepper
Lightly toast the slices of bread and slice off the harder sides. I had only sliced off the hardest side (not all 4 sides).
Take the peeled eggs and mash them with a fork.
Add the cheese, pepper powder (as desired) and salt (as desired). Mix thoroughly.
You may add milk (2 tsp) if you want to smoothen the mix. I didn't add any milk.
Now remove the hard side(s) of the toasted slices of bread, add butter on one side of each bread.
Spread the egg mix on the buttered side of two slices of bread. Put the remaining bread slices on top and press them with a plate for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, cut the sandwiches in half and it is ready to be served!