“To chase a dream, you have to stay awake.”
Time and time again, I’ve been told, “Follow your dreams”. Time and time again, we’ve been told, “Just do what I tell you”. Time and time again, the world has pushed us down then told us, "Get up". More often than not, we find ourselves lost, empty, and indecisive, lacking a gale and a destination on our journey on life’s ocean.
Most of us associate living a successful life with fulfilling a great, larger-than-life dream, but we all seem to ignore the day-to-day aspect of living life. This point of view on life is quite detrimental. We lead ourselves to believe we can only truly live for a few very special days, while in reality, life is much fuller than the narrow tunnel we restrict ourselves to.
Life is about both the journey and the destination. Without identifying a destination, we will never amount to anything — we will wander the endless sea without a shore to land on. However, without appreciating the journey, we will never last long enough to reach our destination — we will traverse the endless sea without a wind to push us.
To reach the extraordinary, you have to live through the bad and the everyday. Feeling joyous on the bad days provides the same self-confidence as fulfilling a dream.
If you have been on the internet for a while, you may have come across the term ikigai. The definition most of us are probably familiar with is the one described by the following chart:
This, however, is not the original meaning ikigai was meant to have. This definition of ikigai is an English translation of Andres Zuzunaga’s Purpose Venn Diagram. This definition of ikigai could be described as “Western Ikigai”. Ikigai has been translated into “A reason for being” or “A reason to get up from bed”. In Japan, the meaning of the word is very similar, yet very different.
In Japan, the meaning of ikigai is much less grandiose. The meaning is still related to a reason for being, but instead of focusing on the one purpose in life like the western definition, Japanese ikigai focuses on the minute details that make life great — embracing life, reflecting on past memories and experiences, and being thankful for every little thing.
The difference between the two interpretations creates the impression that life should be lived not only with an end purpose in mind but also with an appreciation for the daily and the mundane.
Now the issue is not what it is we must do, the issue is how we must accomplish it. How exactly are we to start appreciating every day while working towards an ultimate dream? First, we start with surviving and loving the day-to-day because without a strong foundation to work off of, we cannot build to the heights we need to reach.
Based on my experiences, a critical idea in this philosophy is removing all sense of self-entitlement. Entitlement often leads to feelings of jealousy when we believe we deserve what others have, feelings of conceit when we believe ourselves to be better than others, or feelings of disappointment and anger when we believe we should have something but do not receive it. A life omitted of entitlement will lead to gratitude whenever something positive happens to us, contentment even when we do not get our way, and joy whenever a new day comes.
It is definitely difficult to appreciate life every day, especially in these pressing times with all that seems to be going wrong. Something I have found to help is re-thinking my perspective. I think about how lucky I am just to be alive, to be in a position where I can complain about my circumstances. I think of how delicate life is; how hard sustaining life actually is. If you have ever tried taking care of a plant, a pet, or a young child, you will understand how nuanced, strenuous, and beautiful life really is.
I know it’s hard, so you don’t have to do it all at once, just try to gradually remove self-entitlement from your life. Whenever you are tempted to complain, make a conscious decision to think about the situation, consider the fact that you are alive, think of the people going through worse than you, be grateful that this situation could be worse, but it’s not. It’s completely fine and understandable to want to complain, but ensure it does not become a lifestyle.
When working towards accomplishing a lifelong dream, many people begin to brush aside other aspects in life, and over-focus on their goal. Of course, dedication and commitment are important, but it is not only difficult, but also unhealthy to only live for one thing. Once we appreciate the world for all it has, we have a foundation where we can start building towards our ultimate goals.
The main inhibitor preventing people from accomplishing their dreams is their lack of perseverance; many people give up on their dreams too soon and too easily. To understand the importance of perseverance, we must first understand what a dream really is.
A lifelong dream should be something that spans over many years, something that only you can achieve, and something you value.
A dream of this caliber is not something you can finish in a day; it is not an ordinary accomplishment; it is not something you do for someone else.