I am fascinated with Japanese culture – it’s history, elegance, beauty, simplicity, dedication and flow.
And I’m not that surprised that everywhere I’ve looked for greater insight into productivity, motivation, fulfilment, happiness, health etc, the people of Okinawa, Japan have been referred to.
Okinawa is a remote island south-west of mainland Japan and is one of the recognised Blue Zones (this is another awesome TED Talk, but then when aren’t they??)
According to the World Health Organisation, Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world: 85 years for men and 87.3 years for women.
The island of Okinawa is known for having the highest ratio of centenarians in the world. It’s almost the norm!
The people of Okinawa have been the subject of hundreds of studies by scientists and researchers across the world. Everyone wants to know their secret to living a long and fulfilled life. Because these people are also super content – they love life!
But why? And how does this relate to you growing your business with greater ease?
Well, let me tell you 🙂
And when I tell you, I suspect you’ll think ‘There must be more to it?’
But there really isn’t. And funnily enough, it’s why most people don’t believe it. They don’t because they think the answers must be harder! There must be more involved.
The thing is, these are quite simple ideas but we live in a world of complexity and distraction and that distraction is what we focus on not the simple things.
So what’s the secret?
Well the Okinawans have been seen to:
- Have Ikigai. This is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” Or ‘the reason for which they get up in the morning.’
- Focus on jiko jitsugen – or self-realisation. Work because of the fulfilment it gives them.
- Follow the spirit of wabi sabi – rather than searching for beauty in perfection, they look for it in things that are flawed, incomplete.
- Have a moai: a small group of friends who support them much as a family would
- Develop an ittaiken: a sense of oneness with, or commitment to, a group or role
For the people of Okinawa and most of Japan, these concepts aren’t limited to work they use them as their general way of being as a whole. But I want to help you see how this can certainly help you grow your business with greater ease.
Let’s start with Ikigai. In essence, this is your ‘WHY’, your reason for doing what you do; for getting up in the morning. Your Ikigai might be your children or your partner or both. It might be adventure and travel. It might be teaching. It might be expressing your creativity. It could be something else….
Your Ikigai will be different from the next person. It may also change at different stages of your life. But I suspect its current form is ‘the thing’ that has brought you on this current path of building your own business or pursuing your project. Having a good sense of your Ikigai means it can always be your guiding light – the thing to come back to when things get muddied.
Knowing what your Ikigai is will help you to build and design your business in a way that allows you to follow it the best way you can.
Do keep checking back in with your Ikigai regularly! Use your intuition, your internal knowing, rather than looking for some kind of external evidence!
Jiko jitsugen, which stands for “self-actualization” and/or “self-realization,” and again in principle is doing work because of the fulfilment it gives you.
Many in Japan do this by following their passion and unique talent. You should be doing this too.
Your business is already part of your self-actualisation. It’s part of you pushing forward to achieve something significant for yourself. But even within your business, you want to focus on the work that fulfils you and that creates flow. You want to look for the activities that may challenge you, but you also enjoy doing, so much so you lose track of time.
Put the results of these out in the world and you will attract your people to you. They will want to see more, hear more, read more, watch more, experience more.
According to Héctor García and Francesc Miralles in their book ‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’, “The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.” And “In order to achieve this optimal experience, we have to focus on increasing the time we spend on activities that bring us to this state of flow, rather than allowing ourselves to get caught up in activities that offer immediate pleasure.”
And according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Hungarian professor most well-known for his work on ‘flow,’ in order to focus on a task we need:
1. To be in a distraction-free environment
2. To have control over what we are doing at every moment
Being distraction-free and finding flow is ultimately the recipe for sustained productivity! It’s a discipline to master. But a highly rewarding one as you see the build and completion of projects you’ve been dreaming to achieve.
This will also help you develop an ittaiken, a sense of oneness with the role you want to play in your business, and in the community, you want to serve.
I highly recommend the book ‘The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results’ by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.
4. BEAUTIFUL IMPERFECTION
I love the concept of wabi sabi – looking at the beauty in imperfection and accepting the transient nature of all things.
Nothing on this planet is ‘perfect’ or even strives to be. We have made up this idea of obtaining perfection! I tie the wisdom of wabi sabi nicely to the idea of ‘progress over perfection’ (thank you Marie Forleo).
Apply this to your work and you will become much gentler on yourself! This is like a huge permission slip to explore and experiment with what you want to produce within your business and how you want to show up! It’s a chance to appreciate the beauty of imperfection as an opportunity for growth!
If you want to learn more about wabi sabi, I recommend the reading ‘Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom For A Perfectly Imperfect Life’ by Beth Kempton
5. SLOW DOWN
I want to add that slowing down is also crucial! As Garcia and Miralles also point out “Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, ‘Walk slowly and you’ll go far.’ When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.”
I personally believe the ever-present ‘To do’ list with no clear boundaries is a hiding to nothing. It creates significant anxiety and fear when you look to this list and all you see is a future of all the things you need to achieve.
It takes you away from the very moments you’re living now, enjoying the process you’re going through, plus the learning. Slowing down by focusing on one thing at a time brings you back to the present. And gives you the opportunity to choose the thing that gives you joy as you do it – which will show through in the end result.
I love writing! I love writing these posts for you. In my first business as a personal trainer (and I enjoyed writing then too), I would schedule about 2 hours to write something and still plan another 101 other things to do that day. Every week I would find that writing would take a hell of a lot longer than I anticipated. I’d get so stressed about it; I’d still want to create something I was proud of without skimping because of the time, but then everything else went out the window.
This time around I schedule pretty much a whole day for writing and if I get it done quicker then I’m able to take that as time out! Lush! By slowing down and giving this task the attention it deserves I know I have ample space to enjoy the process of writing and getting into the flow and giving you my best content. It’s a lot less stressful and means I can really tap into this one task that fulfils me.
6. FIND YOUR SUPPORT TEAM
Find your moai – the small group of people who will support you and will do karaoke with you (the Japanese looove karaoke, don’t they??). Or more likely the people who you can discuss your business with, who get what you’re trying to achieve and why and can help you whenever you need it. This might be family, but it might be people on the same journey as you or have already been through it.
So those where to 6 takeaways from the Okinawan people to delve into to help you grow your business with greater ease.
I said previously that they were simple but the complex part is avoiding the distractions that can pull you away. If you’re going to embrace these I also recommend patience 😉 But that’s not a bad thing…. There is great learning in being patient. I’ll go into that another time.
December is an awesome month for reflecting on the year you’ve had. I want you to look at these six areas above and ask yourself how and when you’ve embraced these ideas and how you could do it even more in 2019.
Wishing you a wonderful reflective week.
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AND here’s just a little reminder of what I do…
I work with female entrepreneurs and business owners who want to build their dream businesses!
I will help you get clear on what you need to do, how you’ll do it and keep you on track. You’ll give self-doubt the elbow, saying bye to overwhelm and hello to assertive action. Saving you time, effort and energy!
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