Growing up in India you are taught about professions which would make you successful, rich and hence happy. The focus was and still is only if you study science – became a doctor or an engineer or did an MBA would you succeed in life. Art, culture, history and humanities were meant you would never really make money and hence never see success.
Like most youngster who didn’t make the cut at engineering or medical college, I went for an MBA which would guarantee the lifestyle that came along with money. After spending 6 years in corporate marketing, where I was growing in terms of designation and remuneration, there was something missing. I enjoyed my work but the work culture, stress about work every waking hour, frustration with peers and bosses, left me unhappy most of the days. I was the picture of burnout: frazzled, restless, emotionally depleted by investing all of it in what is expected to climb the corporate ladder. I was always busy to speak to my family, but available 24×7 for my bosses, most of my conversation was centered around work, I had no time for hobby or my health and outlet for frustration was to shop or eat out for momentary happiness.
One day finally something snapped and I threw away my hi-flying and paying job, much to everyone’s surprise. I had no plan, I just wanted to pursuit happiness. I took a sabbatical and traveled for 3 months and decided to explore world beyond corporate world. My mentor advised me to do a project in the social sector for short term while I decide what next.
And that’s when I realized it wasn’t my job I hated, I still miss that work but it was the ways of working and culture which was choking me. Social sector made me meet people who were passionate to make change, impact lives and I wanted to find my passion. My new colleagues were individuals who quit high paying jobs to make difference in the world. From colleagues who would strive for success by pulling other down, I found family with similar work ethics, who worked together to solve problems, cheered each other’s success and laughed and partied hard. It has been 7 years and from having very little understanding of social sector and sustainability, I have worked on over 20 projects across verticals like education, environment, gender equality, livelihood etc. While the money isn’t as much as my previous career but am happy and sleep content of making some difference to this world than make industrialist richer.
Quitting corporate life, also gave me time to realize I had forgotten things that excited me like travel, reading and music. At a wedding, I reconnected with Cheeky Ninja who I knew briefly in college. We started talking and realized our mutual love for fashion and technology. After months of toying with the idea, we decided to start a fashion blog for fun and outlet to creativity if any. 6 years back we didn’t think we could really make a career out of this, but today we do.
Last year I came across the Japanese term IKIGAI that roughly translates to “reason for being.” In Japan, millions of people have ikigai – a reason to jump out of bed each morning.
Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:
· What you love (your passion)
· What the world needs (your mission)
· What you are good at (your vocation)
· What you can get paid for (your profession)
At the intersection of all of this are feelings of peace and lasting happiness that can sustain us throughout our entire lives. The problem is that we stop being curious about new experiences as we assume responsibilities and build routines. We feel certain existential frustration that stemmed from the conflicting desires. On one hand, we wanted to live a life of meaning and consequence. On the other, we wanted to enjoy the lifestyle that came along with money.
Reading about this, made me realize I found my Ikigai 6 years ago. It took a trip to Japan for my friend Chandni, a stylist to find her Ikigai and she recently launched her label – IKIGAI by CS. Am wearing head to toe ikigai by CS in this post. Have you found your IKIGAI?
Photographer – Ankit Mathur