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Finding my Ikigai

'A reason for being'

Written by Goyo

The past few days have been spent researching on the internet how to gain more experience in outdoor education leadership team building coach training and facilitation. Ya that’s a mouthful because there are so many different keywords to express a similar idea of bringing people outdoors and leading them through activities to better themselves, their relationship with others and nature. 

This past year, the universe has been leading me to these types of experiences. And by designing, facilitating and learning from many different experiments with friends and fellow employees, I think I’ve found my Ikigai- a Japanese concept meaning ‘reason for being.’ The revelation was monumental but at the same time feels natural and fitting… like the individual ingredients have been there all along, but until now I didn’t know that cakes existed, and that I have the ability to bake cakes… and eat them too :)

For those who don’t know about the Ikigai, I’ll briefly describe it with the help of the image below. Our purpose for being lies in the intersection of doing what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at. There are secondary and tertiary intersections as well. For example, if you do what you love, the world needs it, and you’re good at it BUT you can’t be paid for it, you may have a feeling of delight and fullness, but no wealth. One exercise to do with this concept is to write down bullet points for each circle and see what commonalities pop up. Then think about how you currently spend your time, profession, hobbies, and passions and reflect on how it fits into your purpose for being, or ikigai. 


For the record, I didn’t figure out my ikigai first and then set out to create experiences; I was already playing around with planning events and then as I dove deeper, I realized all they had to offer me and the world. Here’s a few examples I designed and facilitated this year. 

For my birthday in May I designed an all-day adventure through Golden Gate Park, trying about 12 different activities the park has to offer including archery, model boats, bocce, row boats, and golf. Our group of about 15 got to try new activities for the first time, make new friends, and discover their park’s more intimate hidden gems. 

At work, I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate two-hour nature lunch sessions as well as happy hour activities for upwards of 50 people. We’re all getting back into the office after the pandemic and meeting people in person for the first time and reuniting with others we haven’t seen in years. That bridge isn’t as easy to gap for everyone and while a glass of wine helps, an intentional group activity can break the tension and more effectively build the energy of the room. 

Then this fall, I put together a three-day adult summer camp on the northern coast of California with about 20 friends. I created games to heighten engagement and foster new relationships and strengthen existing ones, organized field day games to let adults play (a lost art these days), hired an African blues band to inspire us, and then we danced the nights away with silent disco headphones while our buddy DJ’d. It was an absolute highlight of the year and one to repeat every year onwards. 

I love these experiences. They are filled with positive energy, engagement, delight, deep meaning, celebration, and human connection. I believe the world needs as much of that as it can get. Working with people has always come naturally to me.  What’s more, there's an opportunity to get paid for these experiences. Since the pandemic, we’ve all been longing for human connection in a real way, not a virtual feed with followers and likes, but real energy, deep connection and childlike play. Companies are trying so many ways to get people collaborating, back into the office or meeting through experiences like these. I haven’t made a dime yet, but I'm hoping to change that in 2024. 

My goal for the next year is to develop programs and experiences, starting with two-hour lunches, happy hours, and day-long adventures. Eventually I would love to take groups on overnight adventures but that will come later I suspect. 

You can create an impact from a short session, but there’s something so valuable about human connection when you go on an overnight trip together. Think about the strong relationships you have with people in your life and the time you’ve spent with them. Chances are you’ve gone through an experience with them, traveled with them, and slept in the same house before. We are at our most vulnerable state while sleeping, and something happens when you experience sleep with others. No you don’t need to be in the same bed. Even just having them in the same hotel, another room in your house or a tent nearby; there’s magic in dreaming together that I can't explain but I know to be absolutely true. And maybe it’s all the moments before and after sleep too, like getting to your destination together, eating meals, winding down for bed, gearing up in the morning, etc. You get to see an authentic side to people that you may have never seen before. We’re usually all glamoured up at the office or the bars, but when you take people out of their element and into nature, you get a whole other side to their being. That’s empathy for self, others, and nature. That experiment is worth pursuing to me; for betterment of myself, fellow humans and the world. 

Until next time, outdoor goyo… OUT

Tags: ikigai - purpose in life - leadership - team building - outdoor education
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