Happiness is the new index. Odd isn’t it, that we should be wanting to measure happiness. Can you be more happy or just happy?
An approach these days is a focus on wellbeing, about which there are countless books, theories and an industry now. What does it mean – wellbeing? It should be about ‘be well’ I guess then.
The ancients had a way of thinking about this. ‘All is well with my soul’. I like this. For when all is well with my soul, I have a full quotient of wellbeing, I suppose.
The Japanese have a word ‘Ikagai’ that the West has latched on to which is all about finding true meaning and purpose for one’s life, and I assume therefore, top scores on wellbeing. Ooh…a new secret to be discovered we all cry.
I happen to believe that this is nothing new nor is it mysterious in any way. It’s about life’s quest for ‘being well with one’s soul’. For soul is about depth and meaning. It is not shallow nor transactional like a ‘goal driven existence’. Sure, goals might well be important but they are not, well, the goal. Being well is. Physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually.
Ikigai is said to have been attained when there is a coming together of: what I am passionate about (in my words, this is about what grabs my attention and energy), what I am good at (I have genuine natural proficiency at), what I can get paid (acknowledged for too, I assume) and what the world needs (that’s a big question in itself – think of substituting your community for world as this is a bit more accessible).
All this sounds obvious you might think. And in many ways, it is. It is also not something that you or I will attain easily or quickly I suggest. It is about life’s journey of connecting with one’s soul – the deeper parts of being who I am, why I am here and being ‘happy’ with that.
Some might think it is grandiose and all about being significant on a big stage.
Well, allow me to shatter that assertion right here. Not everyone can be (or should be) president or prime minister. Not everyone is destined to be a life-saving brain surgeon or brilliant scientist who discovers a miracle drug cure for cancer. Some people are, and the world certainly needs them to be at their best. But wellbeing is about the simple things too.
For example, the world needs great parents – everywhere! And of course, I am unlikely to get paid for that role. I recently heard about a couple who have fostered countless young teenagers who were discarded by their families or society. When interviewed on camera, they were the most unassuming, natural and humble couple imaginable. And it was totally clear that ‘all was well with their couls’. They knew they were great at parenting – loving unconditionally, passionate about giving hope to young people, and were quietly being acknowledged for it. Moreover, there is a huge need in their community for this.
How about being a professional consultant? Do we really need these people? I have met numerous professionals who struggle to find their sense of ‘being well with their soul’ as they perceive people to doubt they add anything. Not true. If you are passionate about solving tough logistical problems or how to use technology more effectively and are good at it and can get paid for it, then you will be almost there. But does the world really need this? The way I try to encourage people to see it is that if they genuinely believe that they are making a positive difference to peoples’ lives – for the common good – then that seems to me to be worthy. But it has to be more than just making money for a few select individuals who will keep it all. That can feel ultimately quite empty. Empty is not about being well.
So how do I know when ‘all is well with my soul’? I suggest it’s about being content. Perhaps happy. A feeling. A deep knowing. An ease with myself. A sense of being full not empty. It is also about being in the zone and being in my element as Sir Ken Robinson says. Giving out and receiving all at the same time.
To get there, it is a journey of discovery for each of us. And that is a whole other piece that requires us to be happy discovering through pain, frustration, joy and fulfilment. What could be more fun than that? This life thing…eh