I think we all reach certain points in our life where we question what we are doing. And look at ourselves in a mirror wondering who it is staring back at us. Whether we actually enjoy the career we have progressed towards. What actually matters in life. And where we are supposed to go from here.
It seems quite common amongst friends of mine of a similar age. And we're yet to hit the typical age of a modern day midlife crisis. Yikes.
It's at this age (I've found) that you start to comprehend the fleeting nature of life. Friends and loved ones start to fall away around you. And the realisation sinks in that our time here is actually limited. It's sobering. Yet at the same time encourages you to question what actually means something. Means more than the goals you set out in your early twenties to earn x amount of money and own x amount of possessions. Which as you discover with age you never quite seem to have enough of, and actually leave you feeling rather empty.
I believe that there is something inside of us, in the depths of our soul waiting to be discovered. And only when we are mature enough to comprehend its complexity, or rather sheer simplicity, it begins to surface. When we are willing to listen and brave enough to explore it. It's something like the realisation that what we do with our time on earth can matter. That it could mean something to ourselves and to others, even in the smallest way.
In Japanese culture Ikigai is a concept that means a reason for being. The belief is that everyone has an Ikigai. And finding it involves a deep and often lengthly search of self. In French it's raison d'être. We all have our own understanding which is akin to this reason for being.
"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."
– Pablo Picasso
We can drive ourselves mad when we try too hard to discover this reason. And the pursuit can often lead to frustration, rather than the happiness and feeling of contentment that we long for. But like many things in life, if we embrace the fluidity and natural flow, and trust it, then it will gradually take us there.
And if we reach this place, this reason for being, we could begin to flourish. Walk lighter through life. Let go of those things that weigh us down. And make time for what really matters.
My own pursuit of this discovery of self has been a confusing and turbulent ride. Clouded by all the self doubt and mistrust of my inner voice. But as I tame that pesky voice my understanding is taking form. And slowly, I'm moving towards that place where I feel more sure of myself.
There have been a number of moments up to this point that have led me to finding meaning. My mother's passing, learning of the concept of flow and how I actually feel it, speaking with a career coach, discussions with a psychologist, and learning of the concept of memento mori which means 'remember you are mortal.'
It's a little morbid to think about. And not something most of us want to go around thinking about everyday. But understanding that death is inevitable encourages us to focus on what's really important. To live in the present.
"Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life.
Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. …
The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time."
The concept of memento mori stems from medieval Latin Christian theory. In Stoicism, a school of philosophy, the contemplation of death is a constant practise. In Buddhism it's maraṇasati which translates as 'remember death.'
The belief is that when we remind ourselves that we are mortal, it prompts us to live each day like it's our last. To notice what we have. To appreciate and feel gratitude. To fill our days with those things that actually mean something. And let go of those things that don't.
Thinking about this has helped me understand what matters most if today is my last. My loved ones. My words of wisdom and thoughts about life spoken or written down. The story that we are creating together that they will reflect on for years to come. The firm hugs I give them. The words "I love you" spoken. Feeling confident that I've instilled in them an appreciation for beauty and life. And if I've inspired a few others in the world then I can leave with peace in my heart.
So to end. I'll leave you with a few questions to ponder that might help you feel a sense of meaning.
1. What is it that takes me into a state of flow?
2. How can I use that to inspire, help or teach others?
3. What can I do today that leaves my loved ones feeling my complete love?
And do exactly that, like today is your last. And repeat.