Ikigai: One Path Toward an Integrated Life

Since I started writing Blooms to Blossoms, I have unknowingly been on the Ikigai path. My passion, mission, vocation, and profession resulted in the desire to share ideas about integrating wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development through writing my blog.  August 7 Visual Blossoms post identified internal and external aspects of life.  Each day, based on our life goals and vision while keeping in mind our commitment to others, we prioritize how these pieces fit together.  Last month I happened across Tanmay Vora’s book review sketchnote of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.  I mentioned in my August 14 Visual Blossom that his summary statement stimulated my interest in how I could apply the principles of Ikigai to the purpose of Blooms to Blossoms.  

Ikigai is the intersection/convergence of four core elements. Charlton (2018) explains the core elements as follows.

**What you love (your passion) — what inspires you?
**What the world needs (your mission) — what makes you feel useful?
**What you are good at (your vocation) — what are you drawn to?
**What you can get paid for (your profession) — what activities do your find most productive?  
NOTE:  Remember that “paid” can mean outcomes/rewards beyond money.

Blooms to Blossoms strives to contribute to the enrichment of young adults and beyond by demonstrating that integrating life and learning makes a difference.  How can you use your knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and beliefs to envision and build your future?

Zippo et al. (2010) assert that wellness encompasses a balance of the multi- dimensional journey that each of us takes at one time or another. Each of our journeys is unique and different. We all strive to succeed as individuals who create our own paths in life. Yasuka (2019) supports my idea that wellness and ikigai are on the same path toward lifelong learning and personal development.  He states, “every person is said to have their own ikigai. An ikigai is personal and specific to each individual’s life, beliefs, and values. It should reflect one’s inner self” (para.2).

Wellness components related to Ikigai core elements

Ikigai is the union point of four fundamental components of life: passion, vocation, profession and mission. In other words, where; what you love meets what you are good at, meets what you can be valued and paid for meets that which the world needs. Ikigai is only complete if the goal implies service to the community. We feel more satisfied giving gifts than receiving. The next step, once you’ve identified these components, would be to start following your compass (Grant, 2019, para.9).

Linkage of wellness, lifelong learning, personal development to Ikigai
Ikigai diagram modified | Alex Tanchoco

Finding your ikigai…start by answering the questions. Kolmodin (2018) shares a tool to facilitate personal growth to find happiness and meaning to life. Click on the link below to download the template.

Well-Being:Self Exploration Pt. 3

Happiness can be learned.

Last week I completed The Science of Well-Being course.  Today I conclude my 3-part “self exploration” series. Santos designs this course to “increase your own happiness and build more productive habits”.  I am glad to be one of the over two and a half million people around the world to complete the course. The course provides insight in how we can be more mindful of the difference between what we think makes us happy and what actually does make us happy.  

Part 1: Santos discusses how gratitude can enhance and expand well-being by taking time to savor and think about (realize) why you are thankful.

Part 2: Santos discusses how interacting with others, kindness, taking time for self, exploring mindfulness, and thankfulness are the key concepts to well-being.

The course structure was typical for online courses.  Lectures, videos, quizzes, and readings. The lessons, presentations, and readings were research based with assignments geared toward clarifying personal expectations, misconceptions, and direct application to life. Santos development the assignments (rewirements) as a set of “practices aimed at rewiring habits”.  In the first half of the course the rewirements were designed to learn about self.  Topics included an assessment of signature strengths, savoring, kindness, social connection, self-care, and gratitude.  The final rewirement, during the second half of the course, focused on putting the pieces together with the outcome being a personal plan to change a self-selected behavior(s).

I appreciated the quantitative measures at the beginning of the course. I value data from reliable and valid sources while understanding that these measures are a snapshot of life.  My learning in the course was certainly supported by Santos’ presentations and materials. The research foundation along with her conversational communication style and examples enhanced the learning of the key concepts.  I found the discussion forums the most interesting.  The discussion forums were, to me, a group of scholars and practitioners.  I engaged with others from around the world (many US states, Germany, Finland, Bahrain, Philippines, India, Egypt, Nepal, South Africa, Australia, Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Austria) ranging in age from 20-74 years old. The peer learning environment was the most beneficial to me because of the variety of perspectives…knowing and understanding other interpretations of the concepts and associated experiences was valuable to me.  

I am more focused on improving habits that will lead to a better/happier life for me and for those around me.  The areas I chose to focus on to continue to live a better life are: savoring, kindness, and gratitude.  

I chose these aspects from the course because I see these as characteristics that would not only improve my life but help me contribute to the betterment of others.  

Well-Being: Self-Exploration Pt. 2

During the first two weeks of The Science of Well-Being I completed assessments to establish a “happiness baseline” measurement.  At the end of the course I will revisit these assessments as a post-test measure.  I learned that gratitude can be even more powerful by savoring life events.  In Part 1 of my 3-part self-exploration series I shared Santos comments about savoring.

Santos discusses how gratitude can enhance and expand well-being by taking time to savor and think about (realize) why you are thankful. Savoring is finding the beauty of the moment and being grateful. Savoring is the “simple act of stepping out of your experience, to review it, and really appreciate it while it’s happening”.  

Interacting with others, kindness, taking time for self, exploring mindfulness, and thankfulness were the key concepts of weeks 3-5.  Below is a summary of the concepts.

Below I share my thoughts and actions related each of the concepts above.

Supporting Research…for those who would like to read more:

Social Connections:   Diener & Seligman (2002) Very Happy People

Random Acts of Kindness: Sreenivasan & Weinberger (2017) Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter to Your Well-Being

Exercise:  Britt (2019)  Can Exercise Make You Happy? Or Does Happiness Help You Exercise?  

Sleep: Booker (2013)  Good Night’s Sleep Linked to Happiness

Meditation: Shapiro & Shapiro (2014) Mindfulness Meditation is the Direct Way to Happiness

Gratitude: Stoerkel (2020)  The Science and Research on Gratitude and Happiness

I am growing and learning and happy.
Bringing together the past, present, and thinking about the future.

Day One…Year Two!

I started writing my blog in May 2019.  
Today is blog #53…the first blog of my second year!!  
Happy Birthday Bloom to Blossoms!! 

I stated in my first blog that I hope to create a community to share ideas and experiences about ways to live a healthy, evolving, and enriching life. Intellectual stimulation and community building continue to be two of my primary goals.  Reading, thinking, and writing about topics I care about moved me from being a passive consumer to an actively engaged consumer. Over the past year I feel like I progressed from questioning “am I a blogger” to believing “I am a blogger”.  

Sitting on the porch last week, I did some brainstorming with myself about my first year as a blogger and what I wanted to do next. Below are some key ideas and I am excited to share an additional aspect of Blooms to Blossoms that will begin on Friday.

  • Blogging is more time consuming than I had expected BUT it is time well spent.  Consistency in writing and publishing is important.
  • Finding a niche/brand/identity (my purpose) helps focus my writing.
  • Learning from trial and error is part of the process; trial and error is really a fundamental problem-solving process.  Trial and error is insightful learning.
  • Being “out there” (publicly sharing my writing) is a bit daunting and intimidating but fulfilling after publishing each blog.
  • Inspiration for topics come from everywhere.  Being open to influences from my surroundings and my day-to-day life is a creative process of writing.
  • Information overload happens so organization of ideas and materials continues to be important.
  • Reconnection with friends and making new friends is a benefit.  Making connections with others is the community building aspect I plan to continue developing.
  • Engagement in the blogging community provides support and resources.
  • Patience is a virtue 

The past 52 weeks topics of my blogs have been varied. Learning is a lifelong process integrating all aspects of the wellness (physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, etc).  

Feature images from Blooms to Blossoms Year One

On Friday I will launch Visual Blossoms.  The purpose of Visual Blossoms is to share my thoughts about the purpose of Blooms to Blossoms with readers through sketching.  The intent is not to repeat the blog in graphic form. Visual Blossoms will expand the purpose of Blooms to Blossoms…to tell the story in a distinct way.

Blogging provides me the opportunity to connect my personal and professional life and continue to learn something new every day.  I couldn’t have accomplished getting Blooms to Blossoms online without the encouragement and support of my family and friends.  I appreciate your input and feedback. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. As I continue to increase my readership I appreciate you sharing my blog with your family, friends, and colleagues.

In addition, when I met Conor (my web guy), and he told me, “I love solving problems and telling authentic stories” I knew he would be a key contributor to my success. Conor listens to my ideas and then creates a custom identity and design for me to accomplish my goals.

The past year I have learned A LOT.  I have filled an intellectual/creative gap missing in my life.  The blog journey is off to an excellent start.  I am looking forward to the upcoming year to see where it takes us. 

Well-Being: Self Exploration Pt. 1

Over the past couple of months, I have posted on social media and written a blog mentioning Laurie Santos Science of Well-Being course.  I have completed the first two weeks of the 10-week course. I plan to share my experiences as I move through the course. The first part of the course provides opportunities to examine and probe personal viewpoints on happiness and habits.  The second part of the course provides opportunities to apply knowledge gained.  

As someone who is data driven week one of the course provided insight in current level of happiness and strengths identification. Week two began the process of delving deeper into the meaning of the week one results. The question “How Do You Know” has not only been a part of my professional life but also key to my personal development.  Certainly, numerical data (such as finding your current score of happiness) is an important snapshot of life however I am drawn to the ways to measure abstract concepts and apply to self.  You can see a description of “How Do You Know” in my website resources.

While my specific outcomes are not the focus of this post from a broad scope, I found the results to confirm my perspectives of self AND provided insights on areas to pursue with more effort.

“Savoring and Gratitude” is the reading for week two.  Does gratitude alone lead to complacency without further insight into the deeper appreciation of life experiences?  After reading the course materials, watching the course videos, and taking part in the discussions forums I found that I am a grateful person BUT do I really savor the moments of life.  Santos discusses how gratitude can enhance and expand well-being by taking time to savor and think about (realize) why you are thankful. Savoring is finding the beauty of the moment and being grateful. Savoring is the “simple act of stepping out of your experience, to review it, and really appreciate it while it’s happening”.  

A few days ago, after a thunderstorm, while it was still raining (no threat of severe weather), I went for a run. Due to the “stay at home” policy there were hardly any cars and I only saw one other person walking a dog.  While the stay at home policy for the past several weeks has been a bit challenging, I am trying to keep my glass half full and savor the moments of each day.  Sure, I want life to get back to normal, but I did savor the peacefulness of a light rain and the solitude of my run. 

I have always been grateful for my runs (good, bad, or indifferent). I have learned through this experience is to be more aware of the meaning my day-to-day activities. This awareness will have an influence on uplifting my well-being.  

Chowdhury (n.d.) depicts the relationship
between gratitude and well-being.

Bryant and Veroff (2006) Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience provides a conceptual definition of savoring “people have the capacities to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experiences in their lives” (p. 2).  Below I share a summary of their savoring strategies outlined by Kennelly (2012).

Be ready to experience every moment,
don’t let any of it pass you by
because you can only truly live the life
you have embraced.   
Unknown

While my running example above is just one aspect of my life, I am grateful for every time I run.  After week 2 of The Science of Well-Being I have learned to look at the details, sensations, positives, and enjoyment of my day-to-day activities. I hope to express my joy and happiness more often…life is meant to be savored.

Gratitude + Savoring = Joy/Happiness

Savor every moment slowly.
As these will be your
long lasting memories
forever.
-Sassa

Visual Happiness

Recently a couple friends sent me messages about the Yale online course The Science of Well-Being.  They thought I would be interested in the course for a variety of reasons. The main reason is the topic fits with the intent of my blog.  It is interesting that they contacted me as I have mentioned this course a few months ago on Facebook. Last week the Today Show aired a segment with Happiness Lab’s professor Laurie Santos. In the interview she shares 5 ways to feel better.

In the interview Santos discusses 5 tips that can help elevate your mood and help you feel better during this stressful time.

Learning to draw and sketch has been on my “wish I knew how to” list for a couple of years now.  I had an idea!!

Disclaimer: Drawings below are suitable for all audiences…HA…however, they may not be worthy of posting on your refrigerator…HA!!

My idea:
Share some of my “drawings” that depict Santos’ tips

Santos Tip #1: Belly Breathing – to deactivate (sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight mode).

Calming breathes, yoga, taking a walk, sitting outside are ways to stop and refresh.

Santos Tip #2: Kindness – in addition to self-care, do an act of kindness or helping someone.

Be kind to yourself,
then let your kindness fill the world.
Unknown

Santos Tip #3: Focus on what you can control – actively try to be healthy and mindful of your well-being.

Time with family (for me that’s my husband and our cats) keeps me focused on our well-being.

Time spent with cats is never wasted.
S. Freud

Santos Tip #4: Exercise, eat healthy, sleep enough – back to the basics

At the end of the 19th century
“an apple a day keeps the doctor away” 
became a popular phrase.
A good start toward getting back to basics.

Santos Tip #5: Actively practice gratitude – mood and resilience improves when you focus on blessings.

The oak tree symbolizes strength, knowledge and resilience.
We should all be grateful for the strength, knowledge and resilience
of ourselves and each other.

Her current course “The Science of Well-Being” starts TODAY…I’m enrolled!!

In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits. As preparation for these tasks, Professor Laurie Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness, annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do, and the research that can help us change. You will ultimately be prepared to successfully incorporate a specific wellness activity into your life.

Another friend sent this to me last week. I hoped I’ve passed along a little kindness and love to my readers.

Breathe, be kind, stay focused, be healthy, be grateful.

Influencers Help You Find Your Best Life

It is interesting, the tidbits of information you find out about your parents when they move close to you as they get older. I went to visit my parents this morning and came home with a briefcase full of reading materials my Dad has saved over the years. The materials in the briefcase were items from the last 3 decades. He told me to take it home… “there might be inspirations for your writing”. Knowing my Dad, I knew there is some good “stuff” to share.  

Typical to my personality, I had to first sort through the materials.  I gathered items based on topic and then had to put everything in order by month and year.  

NOTE:  Those who know me would say “well, of course, that was your first step.”

Anyway, after sorting, I skimmed through the items.  Yep, some good stuff for sure!

The most interesting aspect as I skimmed the items was that there were several places Dad marked with arrows or starred or used a paper clip. He also makes notes on the back cover with a page number and someone’s name who he feels would benefit from the passage or story. This is what my Dad has always done to keep track of the most meaningful passages.  I believe it is also his way of creating teachable moments…as I look through the materials now I recall many times over the years that Dad has taught me lessons of life, common sense, and responsibility from what he’s read.  I now see his intent was to help me become the best I could be and to do good for others.  He is showing me how to “Let My Life Sing.”

Below, I share some of the items I pulled from the briefcase today.  These items support the idea of seeing the big picture, thinking about the future, and how to succeed in life. While keeping the big picture in mind, the story told by these snippets also share the idea of learning from mistakes/failures, live for today, and hold the course to future dreams. 

Live to Influence Others is chapter 4 in Lessons My Father Taught Me (2016) by Michael Reagan.  Reagan states, “influence is something that you understand and appreciate better after you gain life experience, wisdom, and perspective.”  I believe we can all agree that life experience, wisdom, and perspective allow us to see the value in the thoughts of those influential in our lives.  Reagan went on the name key aspects of an “influencer” and these all are characteristics that could describe my Dad.  An influencer in your life…

**makes an investment of time to help and teach others
**provides direct and indirect guidance
**knows his audience
**knows what he believes in and why he believes it
**uses the events of the day as object lessons
**looks for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others
**is a storyteller

Who have been/are influencers in your life?  Do the characteristics listed above apply?

Who are you hoping to influence?  Do the characteristics listed above apply?

A Great Teacher = An Educator

I have been a participant in and a member of the field of education my entire life.  Many members of my family also worked in this profession.  In fact, my twin sister worked in middle school/high school for 33 years.  I recently listened to a TEDxYouth Talk by Timmy Sullivan.  Timmy shared his perspectives on the differences between a teacher and an educator. Others in the field share the same insights and distinctions made by the speaker.

A teacher is someone who shows up for a teaching job every day. He or she knows the content and likely teaching like a job. Whereas an educator is one of those people who goes farther than what is expected. It’s the teacher who makes relationships with students more important than the content, but because of those relationships, the content comes alive (Sackstein, 2016).

An educator educates. That is, they present the information, asses, revisit, and assess again until they are satisfied with the LEARNING that has taken place. To have all students learning an educator needs to be proficient at all kinds of different strategies such as differentiation, meaningful assessments, authentic assessments, scaffolding, and on and on. If you call yourself an educator you show confidence that you know your stuff and that you are good at what you do. Teaching does not imply learning, only teaching. If your students haven’t learned after you have taught, you have still taught and fulfilled the role as teacher. Education implies that learning is involved (Johnston, 2017).

Educator and teacher are two words that appear to be synonyms at first, but there are subtle differences between these two words. When compared with educator, teacher merely refers to a job title; teacher is a person who teaches in a school. But, an educator is a person who educates students. A good teacher can be called an educator. This is the main difference between educator and teacher (Hasa, 2016).

After listening to the TedTalk and reading on the idea of how learning and education can span a lifetime, I asked my sister about her experiences.  Interestingly, when I asked her who inspired her to pursue education as a career her response was the same as mine.  Our first influential educator was Miss B. 

Who or what inspired you to be a teacher?  

The person who inspired me the most to become a teacher was Miss B.  She was someone who, not only taught the skills needed for the class, but was also a person who was respected by the students and teachers for her candor, her sense of humor, and her ability to teach in a classroom setting as well as in the gym.  She was someone a person could learn from by just being around her and, students wanted to be around her.  I still think about her quite a bit and still laugh when I remember the “championship” badminton game that Miss B. and her partner challenged us to in our senior physical education class.  The class, as well as my sister and myself, “knew” there was no chance two “old ladies” could win this game.  Well, another lesson wasc taught by Miss B…..she and her partner actually stood in one spot throughout the game and proceeded to, literally and figuratively, run us around the court. We were humbler and ‘sweatier” from this experience.

What was your favorite lesson/topic to teach and what made this lesson/topic unique? 

I would have to say that the unit on Ecology has been a favorite.  The unit lends itself to discussions beyond the basic content. We talked about caring for the environment and how decisions made to improve our lifestyle can negatively affect the natural world.  Students interacted during a brief discussion about how and why decisions to improve the efficiency and ease at which we live could negatively affect the animals, the atmosphere, etc. Students began to understand that learning and becoming knowledgeable in areas they may not originally have any interest in will help them be able to make informed decisions in their future.  In the short time we were able to spend on this unit the students created thinking maps, worked together on computer and lab activities, and we had another fun review game using the SMART Board while students competed with their “teams”.  When I was able to “step back” and just watch my students, I saw them engaged, happy, confident, and excited about the quality of their work and their ability to carry on some “science discourse” as they “taught” each other and reflected on their answers.

How did you differentiate instruction for the different learning styles and abilities in your classroom?

To me, the goal of differentiating is to maximize each student’s academic and personal growth so that they develop the ability to take control of their own lives and learning.  When planning a unit, the first question in my mind is, “How do I divide time, resources, and myself so that I am an effective catalyst for maximizing the talent in all my students?” My priority is ALWAYS to ensure that curriculum is coherent, important, inviting, and thoughtful.  Every student must think at a high level AND must receive support when doing it.  I use flexible grouping throughout each unit.  Students may work individually, with their partner, with their lab group, or with their teams during any given unit. I have placed students in these groups based on their personal attributes, academic skills, attendance, and reading levels. As I consider the “whole” of what I cover during a given unit and I try to create a core of engaging activities to select from as I move day to day throughout the unit.  These activities include the use of technology, manipulatives, Thinking Maps, Cornell notes, lab investigations, creative projects and writing conclusions or summary statements on their Cornell notes (we call these our AH HA moments).

What did you think/hope your students would say about you after they left your class? 

I believe my students would say that I was someone who never wavered from the high expectations I had for them regarding their academic performance and their personal behavior.  They would say I was “tough”, consistent, treated them with respect and that I was straight forward and honest with them. They knew what to expect every day and they felt comfortable in my room. I also hope that they would be able to verbalize to others that they saw how much I cared about them and how much I enjoyed my “job”. They would say that I taught them more than just science. 

Describe your best day as a teacher.  What made this day so significant?     

I saw a quote in the gym when I was working out that said, “Your goal is not far if you believe in yourself.”  This is exactly what I want my students to know and understand as they leave my class and move on to 10thgrade.  My best day as a teacher comes in small parts rather than a whole.  It is when I see a student’s confidence build, when a student who never makes eye contact finally is assured and feels safe enough in the room to look at me or his classmates, when students interact with each other with respect, when a student earns a score on a test that he/she never thought they were able to achieve, when I am talking with a student about her importance to the group she is in and she understands well enough that her leadership is important that she says, “Oh, you mean I am the glue”. 

Some of her colleagues shared the following when nominating her for teacher of the year.

“She does whatever it takes to make each student achieve their best. She is great at analyzing data, the whole student, and searching for the best method or strategy to meet their needs.”

“As test coordinator, she helped me with a student lacking motivation.  She made a connection with him in about 3 seconds.  At once he was open with her and laughing at jokes, and I think it was because she made it clear IMMEDIATELY that she CARED about him.  It was a very impressive thing to watch.”

“She is the kind of person who gets things done without asking, which I really am trying to emulate.  While I am trying to figure out what people what me to do, she is in the process of doing it!”

“I am constantly amazed by the fact that she is knee deep in at least 4 or 5 major projects and is usually in charge of at least half of those projects.  However, it was not until today that I truly realized her strengths when I saw her go after a REAL student problem.”

Alrubail (2015) Edutopia article, The Heart of Teaching: What It Means to Be a Great Teacher” provides characteristics of a great teacher.

You are…My sister
KindYou show kindness to students, colleagues, parents, and those around you.Yes
CompassionateYou show feelings of understanding and concern.Yes
EmpatheticYou put yourself in someone’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Yes
PositiveYou stay positive when it’s tough and this has a tremendous positive impact on the students and everyone.Yes
A builderYou bridge gaps and build relationships, friendships, and a community. You look to make things better and improve things in and outside of the classroom. Yes
InspirationalYou uncover hidden treasures, possibilities, and magic. Yes

A great teacher is an educator. It seems to me that we are all learners and educators whether we are directly connected to an educational institution or not.  I believe we can be kind, compassionate, empathetic, positive, a builder, and inspirational throughout our life. Working in an educational setting as I did, my sister, my family members, my friends, and others provides us the opportunity to make a difference. Let’s hope that we continue that work once we depart the boundaries of the campus.

I followed Timmy’s suggestion to list my “teachers” from the past. My list included not only classroom teachers but also administrators, colleagues, friends. It was easy to determine which of those individuals on the list were my “educators”. Many of the most influential “educators” in my life held a position other than teacher. I encourage you to listen the TEDxYouth Talk. Then create your own list.

My questions to you are:

**Who are the people who have done the most to influence your personal development?

**In what ways were they influential?

**Are you a teacher OR an educator??

“The greatest good you can do for another
is not just to share your riches,
but to reveal to him his own.”
-Disraeli-