Updated: Feb 4
Last month marked a major milestone for me in my journey of personal development. It’s hard to believe that I passed my first anniversary of writing weekly blog articles with hardly a blink, when it had originally seemed so daunting to even do 10 articles! I am so very grateful for the opportunity to share and grow in this community with you.
Finding my way
This effort began as a natural outgrowth from my experience as a primary care doctor with training in integrative medicine and health/wellness coaching. So much of our work in primary care is to educate, and as coaches to empower individuals to take action.
Coincidentally our world had been dealing with the global pandemic, and as I coached health practitioners from all over the world, I was struck by the similarities of our shared experiences. As doctors we don’t often allow “lay people” to glimpse our humanity, but it was impossible to hide our collective pain and fear as humans in crisis.
Weaknesses in healthcare systems were laid bare in each community, and we watched helplessly as our elderly and most vulnerable loved ones suffered and died. And as the pandemic wore on, even the most resilient among us felt the impact of isolation on our mental and physical health.
The business world has embraced the Japanese concept of ikigai as a rallying cry to workers the world over, to take stock of what they can contribute and get paid for. The problem is that ikigai doesn’t actually mean that: it’s about so much more than work.
Japanese psychologist and professor Akihiro Hasegawa notes that the word ikigai was historically derived from the concept “value in living.” To be precise, value in doing is yarigai and value in working is hatarakigai. Many of us believe that our worth is tied to productivity and earning potential, but what if we were inherently worthy regardless of our contributions or productivity?
What if our purpose in life could be to love and support our families and communities? Life seemed so much simpler back in the day when work was just work that you did to pay the bills, and your passion could be your family, hobbies or how you had fun. I often wonder if we need to put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to align everything perfectly.
My 102-year-old grandmother never had a paying job per se, but she consistently took care of our huge extended family, loved art, and cared passionately about the plight of those less fortunate. Even now she brings unity to our family. She is still teaching me to love her unconditionally, even when she doesn’t know who I am.
What matters most to you? What lies nearest and dearest to your heart?
One of my “compelling whys” for focusing on brain health coaching for caregivers is so that I can learn more about how to manage the challenges of being at personal risk for dementia, while also taking care of a loved one living with dementia. But my most “compelling why” for taking care of myself is so that my kids will never have to know the pain of loving someone who can’t even recognize them.
Our family has been blessed with longevity - one of my grandfathers lived to be 97 and my other grandmother lived to be 91. So I’m probably just a little past the halfway point of my lifespan.
My body and brain are aging just the same as anyone else, but I’ve been amazed at how much better I feel now, compared to how I felt in my mid-40s, before I learned to take care of myself. It’s been a long and winding road of learning how to take care of myself, while also staying true to my commitments to work and family.
Our “compelling whys” help us to choose to listen when our body needs sleep, instead of allowing our inner drill sergeants to make us do more work. Or letting our inner rebels spend more time scrolling on social media.
My wish for you is to take the time to write down at least 5 compelling whys for yourself. There may be more or less, but you owe it to yourself to uncover what matters most to you, what lies nearest and dearest to your heart.
Not only can we engage our hearts and minds to protect our physical brains, but we must do so in order to ensure that our brainspans will equal our lifespans.