Home>Feature>The O’Toole Chronicles: Finding your Ikigai

Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Finding your Ikigai

By Kevin O'Toole, June 22 2021 12:01 am

I was recently reading about important traits that lead to success and came away with some interesting perspectives. One concept, more than any other, stood out. Several authors suggested finding your ikigai, that is, finding your inner passion and living a long life in pursuit of it.  Before this, I had never heard of ikigai, but it got my attention—and off to the races.

Ikigai breaks down as follows: iki means life, and gai means the realization of hopes and expectations. Ikigai dates to the Heian period, 794 to 1185 A.D. (eye roll), and the concept is to find your passion and purpose in life and live it.

Although this concept dates back more than 1,000 years, I think it applies as much, if not more, to our modern world than the era when it arose.  Coming out of the pandemic, in particular, aren’t we all a bit wiser and more focused on what is truly important in life?

I don’t like to proselytize about living a life that is not mine, but I do offer some thoughts of the day to our readers.

Live well this one life you are given.

Back in the 1980s, I recall far too many conversations with frustrated fellow staffers in Trenton about pursuing that dream job, running for mayor or state office or working in D.C. I wish (sometimes) that I could travel through time and compare those aspirations to the lives actually lived.

Back to the modern day, how many of us are punching a clock and living someone else’s life?

Would it be a charge to jump out of bed every day, amped up to climb that mountain you dream of?

What is stopping you?

If you want that dream job, go for it.

If you want an elected office, pursue it with all determination.

If you want to take that life-long dream vacation, book it.

If you want to buy that dream car, start shopping.

If you want to pursue higher education, apply.

If you want to buy that vacation bungalow, start looking at properties.

The point is, how many summers do we have before we find ourselves in that assisted living home? Do we need to listen to John Lennon singing “Beautiful Boy,” as he muses that life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans?

I have said, often, life is short. Live it today—and do it without regrets. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, so jump out of bed each and every day and pursue that master plan.

Find your ikigai, and, according to some wise person, you will live longer and live a much happier life.

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