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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

Episode Nine: How to Ikigai - Time Tamashiro’s guide to finding purpose on a gap year

Updated: May 27, 2022

Tim Tamashiro’s Ikigai is “to delight” – it is the reason he gets out of bed every morning and he wants you to live a life knowing your own Ikigai. But what is an Ikigai? Our next podcast guest will tell you all about it!

Tim is the author of the Amazon #1 bestselling book, How To Ikigai. He’s a speaker, singer and explorer. And after 10 years as host of Tonic on CBC Radio 2, he left radio at age 51 to take a gap year, where he studied positive psychology, wellbeing and Ikigai (life’s worth).

Ikigai is an ancient philosophy from Okinawa, Japan. It encourages all people to live your "life's worth" – studies show that the pillars of Ikigai support overall wellbeing. Each person has an Ikigai that, once understood, will enhance daily life and personal fulfillment. Best of all, Ikigai is a map with four directions to follow:

  • Do what you love

  • Do what you're good at

  • Do what the world needs

  • Do what you can be rewarded for

But before you can even get to those 4 directions, you must check out the 3 precursor, or missing steps:

  • Explore

  • Zero In

  • Ponder

Those three elements are the essence of a gap year! Taking time to explore yourself, your surroundings and ideas and things that interest you, trying out new things and taking time to slow down, reflect and connect the dots so that you feel clearer and more in control of your future.

We are often pushed to go fast, to cater to others expectations of our lives. When you go from high school to university, it can feel like you’ve been told you’re a “kid” and have to become an “adult” overnight. You haven’t been given the opportunity to explore, zero in and ponder. THIS is the foundation for wellbeing and happiness. Isn’t that what we’re all striving for?

This transition to “adulthood” is challenging. At what age do you actually become an adult? When are you capable of making all of your own decisions? And when are you capable of telling your parents it's your own life and you can make your own decisions? Your 18th birthday? High school graduation? When you can live on your own successfully? Your first job?

There is no clear answer to this. Just remember – it is your life and the decisions that are made will affect you more than anyone else. From your mental health to your wellbeing and satisfaction it all comes back to your own success. Your own Ikigai.

Have you heard of a “Tiger Parent”? These are parents that have high (and specific) expectations on what their children will be. They have decided their kid’s pathway (doctor, lawyer, accountant) instead of the kid deciding on their own pathway. There is an imposed sense of disappointing the Tiger Parent if the kid does not follow their parent’s desired path.

As a young person, meeting parental expectations is a way of showing respect, appreciation and love for them. Kids know parents want what is “best” for them and don’t want to let them down. But, if a parents’ expectations are misaligned with kids’ strengths and interests, it will have a negative impact for everybody long term.

At some point, kids will need to move from the backseat, into the copilot seat and eventually into the driver’s seat of their own lives.

But how does this all tie into Ikigai and what Tim experienced on his gap year: Here is Tim’s Gap Year Advice:

  • Discomfort propels us forward. You have to get out of your comfort zone in order to explore, learn and grow. Push yourself into your challenge zone. We have been psychologically and evolutionarily wired to fear change from our days as cave people but in modern-day, overcoming that fear is tremendously rewarding.

  • Take time to “scratch every itch.” This of all of the thoughts of “what if…” “if only….” “if I had more time…”. The things that you have an interest in but have not had the chance to explore. This is your time to test them out and either, decide they aren’t really for you and move on, OR decide you want to explore it further.

  • Choose to do something that is fascinating to you – Get a job related to something that interests you, don’t do it for the money

  • Have meaningful conversation with your family – find alignment, have conversations about expectations

  • Be opportunistic, persistent and adaptable – Find experiences you want to have and find ways to make them happen. If life throws you a curve ball, pivot and make a new plan – you are in control.

  • Gap years don’t have to happen at 17/18. Whenever you feel ready is the right time. You can take a gap year when you feel ready for exploring or when you don’t feel ready for what others are telling you is the next step.

If you want to learn more from Tim check out his book on Amazon “How to Ikigai” or follow him on Instagram (@timtamashiro)

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