I like resolutions.
I like the fresh start of cleaning out a closet. I like the makeover shows that take a dreary old livingroom and turn it into a warm, useable space. I like the sappy sports movies when the underdog wins. I like stories of triumph. Who doesn’t?
But this year, as I make my little list of “resolutions,” I am trying to keep some perspective.
I recently read an article in National Geographic about “the secrets of a long life.” The writer traveled to three pockets of the world where there are high populations of centenarians — one of the places being Okinawa, Japan.
With an average life expectancy of 78 years for men and 86 years for women, Okinawans are among the world’s longest lived people. Okinawans have a fifth the heart disease, a fourth the breast and prostate cancer, and a third less dementia than Americans, says Craig Willcox of the Okinawa Centenarian Study.
What’s the key to their success? “Ikigai certainly helps,” Willcox offers. The word translates roughly to “that which makes one’s life worth living.”
That which makes one’s life worth living. I love that.
It reminds me of the sign that hung in my Grandmother’s bathroom: “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
While thinking today about my New Year’s Resolutions, I read that the top 3 resolutions for 2015 are 1. Lose Weight, 2. Get Organized, 3. Spend Less, Save More.
All of these things were on my short list as well. But with further thought, I decided to think about my goals a bit differently this year.
If the purpose of making a New Year’s Resolution is to implement the habits that create a better, more purposeful life (and eliminate those that don’t) — then perhaps this year, I will focus on my Ikigai.
I may want to lose a few pounds — but more importantly, I want to create a family culture that appreciates the gift of real, healthy food.
I want to drink red wine and sauté fresh veggies while my husband dances in the livingroom with the little ones. I want to gather farm-fresh tomatoes from the garden in the lap of my skirt while my 5-year-old waters the rosemary plant. I want to have dinner parties where friends feel at home and help themselves to seconds and stay too late at night. I want to run around my neighborhood and work up a good sweat and drink a big glass of ice water when I get home. And if a healthy weight is a by-product of a healthy, active lifestyle, then so be it. But I want more than a number on a scale.
I may want a more organized home — but more so, I want a house full of life and the messes that come with it.
I want family and friends and kids to kick their feet up and track dirt in from playing outside. I want a slobbery dog that rubs against my black pants to greet me and a fat cat who sits upon my lap when the kids go to sleep. I want to organize and have a place for everything — but only so we can enjoy more play and crafts and tents made out of bedsheets and I can let go of the fact that there are a dozen toys and tea party cups and baby doll bottles scattered across the floor. I want my house “clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy.”
I may want to save more and spend less, but more importantly, I want to be a gracious steward of my resources.
I want to have gratitude for the incredible gifts we have and teach my children the same. I want to not ever see it as less than miraculous that we have clean water that runs out of the faucet, or light that floods the room when we flip a switch. I want my children to enjoy the greatest play toys — the ones that are plentiful and available right outside our house, the rocks and sticks and trees and bugs. I want to “spend less and save more” not just because we are focused on saving — but because we are focused on indulging in the pleasures that money can’t buy: the date night watching the stars, the family singalongs, the impromptu dance parties.
Mother Teresa says that the reason for a mother’s existence is to “love and be loved and through that love become an instrument of peace in the world.”
That is my Ikigai.
And that’s what I want to focus on this year.