I’ve been reading this book called Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. If you haven’t read it and belong to the generation that does not understand stress-free life, I would strongly suggest giving it a go. It has made me admit to myself something people have said to me before (while I constantly denied it and called them insane).
I am a workaholic (that wasn’t the admission but we’ll get to that in a minute). I love working. I can complain about my job, my pay and even toxic environments but when you ask me to stop working, I’ll only come up with reasons why I can’t. I can’t stop. I was in a meeting until 7pm today. I was dragging my feet to the train but my ego was flying. I was so busy, I had to be in a meeting until 7pm. Like that makes me feel really good.
And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all like different things and I like to be busy working. It makes me feel important and productive and like I’m doing something with my life.
Now let’s get to the thing people complain about that I don’t like admitting – my work defines everything I do outside of it. I was on the train at 7.30pm and told myself, “Don’t check your emails. Shut it off and focus on the music and the words on your Kindle.” You know what I felt? Not anxious, not peaceful and definitely, not focused. I felt guilty.
I feel guilty when I don’t respond to emails beyond work hours. I feel guilty when I turn off at the end of the day. I feel guilty when I take a day off because the doctors thought I might have cancer. I feel guilty when I am not working for not working because my work defines every other aspect of my life.
Before I read Ikigai, I had read Man’s Search for Meaning – thank you Abhishek, if you ever read this. Viktor Franckl talks about logotherapy which is mentioned a lot in Ikigai. The core concept of both these books are the same. (Can I please mention I didn’t go looking for these books? It came to me through suggestions and surprisingly they had the same messaging.) That when you have a why to live, you’ll do so no matter how. So I spent time thinking about my why.
I often tell people I want to be really rich. That’s the purpose to my existence. Money. I want the kind of money that people I grew up with can’t even imagine. To be so rich and yet so humble. To buy the things I see and I see a lot. To own my own place – massive with floor to ceiling windows and a view you would kill for. I don’t want to inherit it. I don’t want to be married into it. I want to earn it. My work will bring that money that will be mine.
Except, I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t really true.
I work at an amazing European business school in Singapore. It’s great. I get to go to these incredible events with speeches by amazing human beings. One such event in October addressed purpose and stress. She asked us to look at the person next to us and talk about our purpose. My answer was easy. “Money.”
Then the person next to me mentioned, “I want to do good through my job.” I stopped and realised that it’s what I really wanted but didn’t like admitting because it doesn’t offend my parents as easily. I wanted to do good for the beings on four legs that can’t speak for themselves. I couldn’t admit it to myself, I wasn’t going to tell her that. So I said, “Cool.” But I kept thinking. I always told people I wanted to start a rehabilitation zoo. For abused animals. To recreate a forest in a closed environment so they were home without being subjected to hunters or abusers.
That carried into Viktor Franckl’s explanation of logotherapy. I continued to think about the things that really make me wake up to that insane alarm at 6am. And now as I read Ikigai and they repeatedly talk about the thing that keeps you going, the meaning, the reason and the purpose behind my need to keep existing in this seriously not-so-great planet, I am realising the truth and I don’t know if it’s the wine typing or really me but…
Remember how I mentioned that I got very used to answering “Money” because it offended my parents? Imagine my surprise when I realised the purpose to my existence was really them.
It didn’t matter how much money. It mattered what I could buy with it for them. It didn’t matter how big an apartment. It mattered how successful it made me appear and how much prouder it made them by default because…
I wasn’t an easy kid. I was smart that wasted the smarts and emotional that made stupid decisions based on those emotions. And my life, this incredibly weird thing I didn’t ask for that they gave to me, I spend working like a mad person because it gets me closer to making them look like they birthed a fricking genius – a result of which makes them stand taller than the others in any room – something they deserve.
Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this post to get so real as well but I just wanted to put this out there.
Sometimes, it’s good to find the meaning behind the things you do. It may make them that much more worthwhile.
So, yeah, I’ll say it. I’m a workaholic. I chase after success and I will slave my soul away until I reach it. My purpose is money. But there’s a meaning behind it.