Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means a reason for being. It’s the overlap of what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at, and what you can be paid for. That’s what I think I found at 40 years old.
It feels like everything I did (and loved) in my childhood, my schooling, and my career led to this. But I didn’t sit down, plan it, quit my job, and boldly build it. It came to me. In baby steps.
I had built a career in advertising and marketing. I was working long and hard hours for what often seemed like an elusive end-state that I don’t think I could actually visualize. What kept me going was the idea that I was working my way into positions where I could make the workplace better for others. I was working for other people’s health. Shielding them from what I believed to be corporate nastiness. Bearing the brunt of that nastiness myself. Then, I was let go from a chief marketing officer job. This was one of the biggest gifts I have ever received.
I found myself without a job but with a few year’s worth of money in the bank. So I gave myself a sabbatical. I committed to only doing things I loved doing, and I committed to only ever doing work that might make the world a little bit better.
I worked on some projects I found interesting. I had an entrepreneurial idea that stalled, and I was gentle with myself and backed off a bit.
I did a lot of yoga.
Around that time I ordered a pair of yoga pants online. And I found myself smiling more when I wore them. And I wanted other people to feel as good as I did in that particular pair of pants.
So I brought in the minimum order quantity of those Superfun Yoga Pants and opened a pop-up shop at a small fitness boutique. I began building our brand voice and figuring out how to execute more and more efficiently. Two years later, the pants are sold in pop-up shops at gyms and studios in several markets, and online (of course).
The yoga pants are amazing, and that obviously matters. But for me and the community of happiness ambassadors that are forming around the business, what really matters is the way we go to market. The way we make people feel. The way we treat ourselves and others.
Our energy goes toward creating human connection among people. Helping them feel good. Helping ourselves feel good. I am operating intuitively and in ways that are authentic to me. And that is what keeps me motivated and inspired.
It’s not all peace, love, and namaste. I face new challenges and need to learn new skills every day. I make a lot less money than I did three years ago. I sold my fancy car, streamlined my mortgage and rented out my extra bedroom. I am navigating uncharted waters. And I am scared. A lot.
But the good things outweigh the bad. I am building something I love, and I am surrounded by people I choose to work with, who love what I’m building and support me.
I’m happier than I have ever been. I enjoy my every day. I am growing a ton. The personal, hopefully short-term, financial sacrifices that I’m making these first years feel like the least of any possible evils. Because I now have a very different idea of what happiness is.
If there comes a time when I don’t enjoy this anymore, I think I will have the faith and courage to make a change myself. That’s something I didn’t have the first time around.
Amy Brachman is a Fort Worth native and the founder of Superfun Yoga Pants. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full digital article can be found at Dallas Morning News