Finding Your Ikigai in the Presence of Parkinson’s

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” Maya Angelou

“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.” Jamais Cascio

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we look at life, career, family, and the rest of the world. It is a time of personal/professional unrest, uncertainty, and what is next. Combine that with trying to live with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. It is a lot to deal with, along with everything else around you. Yet, over the last few years, many have found renewed purpose in life by finding their ikigai.

“It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.” Robert H. Schuller

What is Ikigai? Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese word and concept that is translated as iki meaning “to live” or “life,” and gai meaning “benefit” or “reason.” Ikigai can be interpreted as the source of your daily motivation or what gives your life meaning or purpose. Likely, ikigai evolved from the primary health/wellness tenets of traditional medicine in Japan. Thus, ikigai is derived from balancing your physical well-being with mental/emotional health, and all focused on a purpose in life. The Word Cloud below gives you an idea of the various ideas, trends, and patterns associated with ikigai. In other words, what aspects of your world should be considered when finding your ikigai?

“… the way to thrive is to help others thrive; the way to flourish is to help others flourish; the way to fulfill yourself is to spend yourself.” Cornelius Plantinga

Finding Your Ikigai Amid Parkinson’s: Just as everyone has a ‘different’ Parkinson’s from everyone else, its effect on us is also drastically different. By that, I mean, has your Parkinson’s diminished your cognitive skills? Has your Parkinson’s reduced your ability to concentrate? How are your motor functions/skills with Parkinson’s? Has your stamina and ability to work long hours been reduced by Parkinson’s? Do you need more sleep now than before Parkinson’s? Have you had any vivid dreams or psychotic tendencies with Parkinson’s? Have any of your life/work/family goals or plans been altered by Parkinson’s? Alternatively, do you have any enhanced or improved aspects, e.g., are you now artistic, a more creative writer, or a better athlete?

As one navigates the relatively straightforward suggestions for generating your ikigai, one might want to take the mindset between before Parkinson’s and now with Parkinson’s. It is not so much what has negatively changed for you because of Parkinson’s. It is a reality check of what you can achieve with this disorder. Consider it this way; you are mapping what positively motivates you today in the presence of Parkinson’s.

“We thrive not when we’ve done it all, but when we still have more to do.” Sarah Lewis

Framework for Creating An Ikigai: The diagram below is divided up into four main spheres, and from there are four smaller spheres, and in the central/middle sphere is your ikigai. Your goal is to fill in a blank slate and begin by answering the comments in the four large spheres, What You Love, What You Are Good At, What You Can Get Paid For, and What The World Needs. For example, What You Love would be the things that provide the most joy in your life (it matters not if it is leisure time, whatever brings you joy); does this make you feel alive? What You Are Good At would include any special skills or talents you possess (work- or hobby-related). What You Can Get Paid For would consist of getting paid for your unique skill set, or if you are retired, your volunteer work would have earned you a salary under different circumstances. What The World Needs might include all of humanity or your community neighborhood (you make your world as small or as large as necessary), basing your answer on your impressions. This could include things as big as clean water for everyone to volunteering at the local hospital. The four larger spheres give four intersecting smaller spheres that provide Your Passion, Your Mission, Your Profession, and Your Vocation.

To help you answer these critical concepts about your life/career, I recommend reading additionally by looking through some of the References listed at the end of the post.

Maybe you already know where your passion and talent are focused/located; thus, finding your ikigai could either confirm this belief or surprise you with the answer. Of course, the surprise may be finding your true calling for you, assessed by your hands filling out the four prompts. If your answers were more professional, your true career calling might be revealed. Likewise, using a more personal or hobby-based group of solutions may show your happiness quotient. Maybe merging your attributes for both professional and personal aspects could potentially reveal your future in retired life (I’m hoping for this aspect).

The diagram below shows the standard overlapping circles that provide the footprint for finding your ikigai.

“Possibility is the oxygen upon which hope thrives.” Paul Rogat Loeb

A Plan for Life With Parkinson’s: One goal for doing this exercise is to better understand your current and future life in the presence of Parkinson’s. Finding your ikigai reminds you that you still have much energy to burn and life left to live, even amid this disorder. You still have talents, you still have passions, and you still have motivations, and together, they add up to your purpose in life. By finding your ikigai, you possibly complete the missing pieces of the puzzle. And if you are retired and with Parkinson’s, finding your ikigai may provide you the path to follow and a clearer perspective.

If a good man thrives, all thrive with him.” George Herbert

Balancing Ikigai, Life, and Parkinson’s: Hopefully, you will take some time and find your ikigai. Some will find their answer focused on living in the current moment. Alternatively, some may find their answer in the future, potentially giving one a long-term plan. Our future with Parkinson’s is difficult to calculate and comprehend. For some people (person)-wth-Parkinson’s (PwP), the fuse slowly burns, while others have a more rapid descent. Regardless of the trajectory of Parkinson’s one possesses, the ultimate goal for finding your ikigai is to provide some reassurance your life still matters.

“People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don’t sit looking at it – walk.” Ayn Rand

Useful References and Guides on Ikigai :
1. Find your Ikigai- clarify your life purpose with this questionnaire and powerful exercise (click here).
2, Finding Your Ikigai: 8 Questionnaires and Tests (click here).
3. Find your IKIGAI (生き甲斐)- Take the free ikigai personality test (click here).
4. What’s Your Ikigai? Finding Meaning in Work and Life (click here).
5. What is ikigai and how can it change my life? (click here).
6. The Philosophy of Ikigai: 3 Examples About Finding Purpose (click here).
7. How To Find Your Ikigai And Transform Your Outlook On Life And Business (click here).
8. The True Meaning of Ikigai: Definitions, Diagrams & Myths about the Japanese Life Purpose (click here).
9. Ikigai: the Japanese answer to a life of purpose (click here).
10. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Joyful Life (click here).
11. Ikigai: A Japanese concept to improve work and life (click here).

“Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.” Al Siebert

Cover Photo Image by Ilona Ilyés from Pixabay

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