Ikigai is a Japanese tool used to work out what your life’s purpose might be. The idea is that if you can find something that you love, are good at, can get paid for and is something that contributes to the greater good, then you will find something that will keep you content in all areas of your life. Tools like these can be very useful as a guide and can make things seem a little clearer when you feel lost.
However, there is another use to this that I wish to discuss. Last year I released a single that did a lot better than I thought it would. A few months later, I played a gig where I performed my live original songs. I was so, so stressed about this that it sucked all joy and love I had for music from my bones. The gig ended up going quite well but the relief I felt when it was over was palpable. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted. And I decided that music wasn’t for me anymore.
I have been a musician since I was five. I was good at it. I got a scholarship to the best school in the area, studied music at weekends and went to a good university to study it further. It was my passion. But it seemed evident to me that a lot of my friends were doing things a little more worthwhile; they were becoming doctors and setting up charities. It made my passion feel a little impotent. Yes, music is nice but I didn’t feel like I was contributing in the best way I could.
During this time, I started finding things that really mattered to me: animal rights, veganism, minimalism, sharing helpful ideas with people… and music faded even further away from what I felt was important.
The diagram of Ikigai:
So, for me, music filled three of these circles: I loved it, I was good at it and I was getting paid for it. But the problem was that I didn’t feel it was something that the world needed. If music is contributing something to the world, it’s escapism. And that didn’t feel useful enough to me. So I had a think. I thought about what was important to me. And I decided, that in order to reignite my love for creating, I would have to make music that spread a message I thought the world needed. And so came an abundance of ideas; lyrics and songs about what I care about and how to carefully manoeuvre round the hard-hitting points and tie up my thoughts in music. And my love came back! Music was no longer just my profession and my passion: it became my vocation and my mission! It became my Ikigai.
If you are struggling creatively, perhaps consider that your art is lacking in one of these areas: perhaps you should consider ways to make money through your craft, taking extra classes, nurturing more of a love for it through enjoying other people’s creations or adapt things so that you are fulfilling an extra purpose; contributing to what you think the world needs. Try and work out how to turn your passion into your Ikigai.