Innovation, Insights and Ikigai

Recently I came across a tweet whose picture intrigued me. It had four overlapping concentric circles and contained in the circles were four thoughts: what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs. Alongside these thoughts were four words: Passion, Mission, Vocation, Profession. It made me pause and smile because there in the circles was what I had been trying to put into words.

The circles helped explain a Japanese concept called ikigai. Laura Oliver, author of the article The Japanese concept of Ikigai could be the secret to a long, meaningful life, says that “while there is no direct English translation, ikigai is thought to combine the Japanese words Ikiru, meaning ‘to live,’ and Kai, meaning ‘the realization of what one hopes for.’ Together these definitions create the concept of “a reason to live” or the idea of having a purpose in life.” That idea resonated with me.

In the last few years, I have jumped into learning new things and have challenged myself to try different approaches – a very scary thing for me, but something I felt necessary because I was starting to feel stifled by the way I had been operating in my classroom. I had been craving something, and this Japanese notion helps explain what it was I craved – a purpose, but not just a purpose, a passion, and mission that would enhance my vocation and profession.

Serendipitously, around the time I was feeling very disheartened and restless, my board took a big leap into technology. I would not have thought at the time that technology would be the impetus that would send me on the learning path I find myself on, but here I am. I found I was very adept at learning this new tech and embraced it. I loved the organizational capabilities of Microsoft OneNote – I am by nature rather obsessive about organization – and I became a pro quickly and found myself assisting my colleagues and running mini PD sessions in my school. This lead to my Principal recommending that I join the newly formed Digital Lead Learner group in our board. Little did I know what a game changer this would be for me.

The Digital Lead Learner group takes a collaborative approach to learning not only about digital technology but also about pedagogy – deep pedagogical learning that has impacted all aspects of my practice, most of which have nothing to do with digital anything. At first, I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store. There were so many things I was unaware of and being part of this group opened up many windows I didn’t even know existed. I began building a positive, supportive PLN and I also re-examined the way I approached teaching and my students. Learning to use technology taught me why and how to best integrate that technology in my classroom. This whole process reminded me to be a learner again which, in turn, reinvigorated my curiousity and re-energized everything about my practice. In short, I discovered my passion.

The process continues and now includes delving into completely new territory for me. Participating in Tweetmeets, webinars, facilitating PD, global collaborations, to name just a few. I am seeing much of what I do in a completely new light. The epitome of innovation – revolutionizing, transforming, and doing new things – are all contained in the learning curve I have embarked on. For me, innovation is serving as my ikigai and I can’t wait to see what is next.

Oliver, Laura. “The Japanese concept of Ikigai could be the secret to a long, meaningful life.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 16 Sept. 2017, Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.

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