The Call of the Compass: Finding Your Ikigai in a Maze of Midlife

“The key to happiness is finding your gift. The purpose of life is giving it away.” – Pablo Picasso

Imagine standing at a crossroads, dust swirling around your boots as the wind whispers ancient secrets. One path leads to gilded towers, promise of wealth and status glinting like fool’s gold. Another, faint and infrequently travelled, beckoning with the quiet whisper of purpose and possibility. This, my fellow traveler, is the crossroads of midlife, and your compass isn’t a GPS, but your forgotten and trampled Ikigai – your reason for being.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai isn’t about finding a “dream job”; it’s about weaving purpose into the tapestry of your existence. It’s the sweet spot where your passion intersects with your skills, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. But for many men in their 30s and 40s, this sweet spot feels more like a mirage in the desert. Work feels robotic, passions dusty relics, and purpose? That’s a word reserved for motivational posters.

Ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-guy) is your reason for being, your life purpose, or what makes your life worth living. It’s that feeling of passion and fulfillment that gets you out of bed every morning, even on tough days. It’s more than just a hobby or a career; it’s the intersection of:

  • What you love (Passion): Activities you enjoy and find intrinsically rewarding.
  • What you’re good at (Mission): Skills and talents you possess and can use to make a difference.
  • What the world needs (Vocation): How your skills and passions can contribute to society in a meaningful way.
  • What you can be paid for (Profession): How you can earn a living while doing what you love, are good at, and contributes to the world.

Your Ikigai is found at the convergence of:

Venn diagram of overlapping circles of Passion, Mission, Vocation, & Profession

 

 

The journey to Ikigai begins with self discovery. Ask yourself: What sets your soul on fire? What skills do you wield with effortless joy? What problems gnaw at your conscience, begging for your unique touch? These are the embers of your passion, the north star guiding you towards your mission.

Next, consider your profession. What value do you bring to the world through your work? How does your daily grind contribute to a greater good? Finding purpose in your profession isn’t about climbing corporate ladders; it’s about aligning your skills with a cause that resonates with your core.

The intersection of these two circles – passion and mission – forms the heart of your Ikigai. It’s the sweet spot where work feels like play, where contribution becomes self-expression, and where every sunrise whispers a promise of fulfillment.  Nurture your passions, hone your skills, and above all, never stop searching for that sweet spot where your purpose and your joy converge.

Finding your ikigai, your “reason for being,” can be a challenge for anyone, but certainly feels magnified in an age where traditional notions of male value are shifting.  How do I know?  Because I am man, living in the modern world!  However, even if external markers of worth seem dimmed, the potential for a fulfilling life and meaningful contribution remains constant. Here are some ideas to help men navigate this path:

Reconnecting with Core Values:

  • Challenge the Narratives: Don’t subscribe to narratives that define a man’s worth solely by career success, physical prowess, or societal expectations. Instead, explore your own values: what matters most to you? What qualities do you want to embody?
  • Focus on Strengths & Passions: Rediscover your natural talents and passions. What activities light you up from within? What skills come naturally to you? Reconnecting with these can lead to unexpected paths of ikigai.
  • Redefining Contribution: Broaden your definition of contribution beyond traditional metrics. It can be mentoring a young person, volunteering in your community, nurturing family relationships, or creating art that touches others.

Exploring New Avenues:

  • Lifelong Learning: Embrace learning as a journey, not an endpoint. Explore new skills, pick up hobbies, and delve into subjects that pique your curiosity. This not only keeps your mind active but can open doors to unexpected ikigai.
  • Creative Pursuits: Don’t be afraid to tap into your creative side. Whether it’s writing, painting, music, or tinkering with inventions, expressing yourself creatively can be deeply fulfilling and connect you to your ikigai.
  • Community & Relationships: Building strong connections with others is a key aspect of human well-being. Find communities that share your values and interests, engage in meaningful conversations, and offer support to others.

Shifting Mindsets:

  • Embrace Growth & Change: View this as a time of reinvention, not decline. Accept that ikigai may evolve over time, and be open to new possibilities.
  • Challenge Negative Beliefs: Don’t let ageist notions or internalized expectations hold you back. Believe in your own potential and ability to find purpose and meaning.
  • Practice Gratitude: Focus on the positive aspects of your life, the blessings you have, and the experiences that shape you. Gratitude can shift your perspective and open doors to joy and meaning

 

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. Places like ours are dedicated to guiding men like you through the midlife maze. With retreats, coaching, and a supportive community, we can help you rediscover your passion, hone your skills, and find your unique place in the world.

So, my friend, dust off your boots, dig out your compass, and answer the call of the unknown. Your Ikigai awaits, shimmering in the distance. Are you ready to find it?

 

Additional Resources:

Books:

 

Websites & Online Resources:

  • The Ikigai Project: This website offers online tools and resources, including an Ikigai Venn Diagram and journaling prompts, to help individuals explore their Ikigai.
  • The School of Life: This website and YouTube channel offer insightful videos and articles on various life topics, including finding purpose and meaning.

 

And don’t hesitate to contact me, if you are looking for someone to walk beside you on your Ikigai journey!

 

 

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email
Nathan Nordby
Nathan Nordby is a former Marine, recovering CEO, and current life coach. After leaving the corporate world and years of personal exploration, he’s been on a mission to invite as many people as he can to the rewards of self-discovery. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Creative Living, Metamorfix, a board member of J & J Foundation, a member of Mission 43, a founding member of the Life Design Project, and is active in several men’s groups.
Nathan Nordby
Nathan Nordby is a former Marine, recovering CEO, and current life coach. After leaving the corporate world and years of personal exploration, he’s been on a mission to invite as many people as he can to the rewards of self-discovery. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Creative Living, Metamorfix, a board member of J & J Foundation, a member of Mission 43, a founding member of the Life Design Project, and is active in several men’s groups.