When ‘Ikigai’ is not all there is to life


Sitting cross-legged on a sliver of the Changi Coastal Boardwalk, breathing heavily after a hard run, a salty, sea breeze gently blows upon my face; this is a lovely and near-perfect time for reflection upon my recently completed, Design Your Life Workshop by Bold At Work. I had signed up in an attempt to be exposed to more styles of facilitation along with understanding the work BOLD was doing, in preparation for possible future collaborations. But I got more than what I bargained for.

I realised, for one, that my work is indeed worthy of the coveted“Ikigai” status:

- What I love (travel, people, culture, adventure, nature, being active)

- What I am good at (wandering, connecting, selling, including, being resourceful and curious),

- What I am paid to do (curating adventures and designing itineraries, leading such trips)

- What the world needs (passion, community, a healthy mind, body and soul)

This all intersected in the current work I do. SOUNDS AMAZING? Or is this the equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket, as a lovely fellow participant put it?

It has been a decade of managing a Social Enterprise whose core business is to curate Adventure Travel programmes; yet life has certainly not been a bed of roses; I would describe it more as a field of weeds and wild flowers! The work done is often-envied but seldom-understood. I love it nonetheless and would have it no other way… or so I thought.

On Day 1 of the workshop, we started with an exercise looking into the various domains that make up our lives. It was to be a rude shock that made me relook my focus points, priorities and potential future. It may have seemed like like I was enjoying the perfect state of ‘ikigai’, but this was so long as I did not think too much about the future, and other domains of my life. My ‘perfect’ job was not in fact sustainable, if I acknowledged that #1 my Finances are not exactly fully in place, if we are talking about saving for the future and #2 My job depended quite a lot on my physical health, which may diminish as the years go by.

Furthermore, it soon dawned onto me that I had had forsaken “Personal Growth or Goals”along this entire journey. My job made sure that I was never in town for a long enough period of time, for me to be engaged in learning a new language or picking up a new craft or skill.

By nature, I am more of an ‘action’ person; life was about doing and not thinking. But hitting the pause button, just for a weekend, it became apparent that it was time to do things differently. It was a space for me to think through and make decisions that would change personal outcomes, decisions that I had kept on the backburner for the longest time.

I confronted the tensions that lay internally within myself, tensions that I had not allowed to surface, or was not even aware of. I never had time to deal with my emotions, never wanted or needed to. It was as if I was sailing onboard my ‘Titanic’. Decisions require energy and willpower, which I had none to spare, given that they were all used up in fuelling the Titanic. I would rather continue to enjoy cruising along, not realising that I had hit an iceberg and was not quite moving forward anymore.

I needed to engage and address these rising tensions — applying Design Thinking in the workshop helped me in the process of defining my issues and moving towards next steps. Being part of a facilitated workshop and standing upon this platform to meet with other individuals at their respective crossroads gave me the courage and insight needed to embark upon small projects that would encourage each of us to take the necessary actions to move forward.

Being an extrovert, I normally enjoy being in social situations and with people because they give me energy; physical expenditure and being in motion keep me alive and breathing. But since the workshop, I have developed a new discipline of setting aside time which I would invest in being with myself, as a part of the overdue mind-shift I very much need. I am now directing energy towards energising the other personal life domains I had long neglected.

I have been blessed to walk the path of ‘Ikigai’, but I’d also allowed it to take over my life. I pen these words now from the Changi Coastal Boardwalk, as part of this new journey to reflect and re-energize. Wish me the best as I spend time re- purposing and re-creating the work I love to do and the life I hope to lead, for as Socrates says, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’

Written by Gracie Ngoi

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Like Gracie, the much coveted ‘Ikigai’ has often been told to be the answer to our lives. What happens when it consumes your entire life, leaving you oblivious to other doors that may be there for you. Join us at our Do Your Life (rebranded) programme now and experience what it is like to open up possibilities in this journey of designing our lives!

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