What is your ikigai?

What motivates you?

Professionally speaking, what drives your internal engine? Is your job doing it for you?

What makes the experience of teaching or being a teacher life affirming and powerful is the experience of ‘eudaimonia‘ – a kind of happiness or wellbeing.

Teachers have lots of great reasons for saying their job is the “best job in the world” and to be a teacher really is their life.

The Japanese have a word for this sense of purpose and in the Okinawan language it is “ikigai” which roughly translated means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”, our reason(s) for being, our life force, feeling alive and self-actualisation.

“Ikigai” is like the French say raison d’être but it runs deeper than that as a whole way of being and motivation for living. This is the sweet spot where your gifts, skills, passions, and values align.

Ikigai is made up of two words: iki, which means life and gai, that describes value or worth.

Obviously ikigai extends well-beyond work but as we spend so much of time at work or working then we need something worth getting up for each day that can makes us happy. This isn’t just about the money either. This is what your job gives you as a person, not your wallet or purse.

It’s something Dab Buettner mentions in his TED Talk:

But if you are a teacher and you have fallen out of love with your job, lost your mojo and feel disillusioned then ask yourself whether teacher really is your ikigai.

If teaching doesn’t tick your boxes anymore then do you really want to be locked in a cycle of moan and groan where bit by bit your wellbeing is just falling apart? Being a workaholic teacher in a negative way of being is a recipe for ill-health.

This isn’t a simple question of just throwing in the towel because hardiness can be reborn, developed and nurtured.

If being a teacher is your ikigai then you will find a way around the many stresses and strains that come with the job and blimey, there are plenty enough of them.

Happy teachers who love their jobs will still grumble but they won’t make moaning their identity which is what so many burnt out teachers have become. Those who see being a teacher as their purpose in life will fight for it and refuse to give in to negativity.

In fact, teachers who are in their element (as described by Sir Ken Robinson) won’t let the negatives take over.

If there is a value in living and working as a teacher then you will know that nothing else matters. If you aren’t feeling it anymore then do yourself a big favour and get out and find something else to do if you want to live to 100.

What makes life worth living on a professional level?

If teaching fires you up, gets the adrenaline pumping and gives you enormous satisfaction then look no further – your profession needs you.

If you are finding it tough, stressful and depressing then get out, your profession doesn’t need you and neither do the children because you are passing it on like a virus. Research has shown that “teachers’ occupational stress is linked to student’s physiological stress regulation.”

If we are stressed, children don’t need to know – it’s called ‘being professional’.

If you want to know what ikigai looks like and sounds like then look at passion. Passion has purpose, it has life and it is infectious.

Donovan Livingston’s Harvard Graduate School of Education Student Speech is sublime – he’s in his element. His ikigai is communication and wow, what a great teacher, authentic and alive.

If teaching is your ikigai then keep at it. If it isn’t then find your ikigai before its too late.

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