Ikigai on the Golf Course with Maho
Ikigai is a concept that is very much integral to Japanese culture. The word 'Ikigai' can be roughly translated to your 'reason for being', or purpose and is not confined to the ‘Venn Diagram’. More on its authentic definition can be explored here.
While Ikigai is essential to one's well-being, the true beauty is that it does not have a fixed equation and can change over time.
At Mogami, we would like to highlight this nuance with our 'Ikigai Spotlight Series'.
This month's featured guest is Maho Hayakawa, Professional Golfer/Podcaster traveling the world based in Madrid, Spain.
Tell us your story.
I was born in Sendai, Japan, but I consider myself a third-culture kid. I started golf in Dubai when I was 7 at Emirates Golf Club where they hosted the Dubai Ladies Masters (later Dubai Moonlight Classic). Aspiring to become a professional golfer, I continued playing golf at a competitive level after moving back to Tokyo, and later to Mexico City. I went to Mike Bender Elite Golf Academy in Florida, U.S.A. to complete high school and graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2018.
I turned professional right after graduating college, and since then, I have won once on the Japanese ATP circuit, and a doubles tournament in Spain. I am mainly competing on the Ladies European Tour and the Access Tour (European I & II Division).
As of 2023, I am based in Madrid, Spain. I enjoy reading and studying Spanish, and I am currently working on a podcast project called 'Ikizama: Way of Life,' where I interview individuals about their journey and philosophy in life.
When was the first time you remember coming across the concept of Ikigai?
As a big-time Japanese history lover, I read about it in many samurai's biographies. However, it was reintroduced to me when I moved to Spain, and my friend recommended a book to me called "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life" by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles.
What has been your personal journey with your Ikigai(s) or reason for being?
In my opinion, simply put, Ikigai is the purpose and the passion that makes you feel alive.
For me it is golf, and the mission to inspire others through my game. I’ve realized that I feel most connected to my purpose and meaning when I play golf not only for myself, but for others, and that may be why I enjoy playing in doubles events more than singles.
I did quite a few readings to get to this conclusion.
Book suggestions if you are in search of your Ikizama:
Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor E. Frankl
Siddartha – Herman Hesse
Demian – Herman Hesse
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens ** (just the summary + the last chapter is enough)
Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson
Tegami-Ya (Japanese) – Yasushi Kitagawa
Yume-Wo-Kanaeru Zou I-IV (Japanese)- Mizuno Keiya
How does your life today reflect your authentic self and life priorities?
I am living the way I want to live, and I have concluded that everything is a matter of mindset. In a society where communication has been facilitated through social media, the internet, etc., we can often see others’ lives and be harsh on ourselves for not living up to a societal “standard” or “timeline.” However, the key is to realise that we are all wandering in a maze called life, and there is no “correct” path, except when you choose to believe that it is the correct path.
The only difference I see in myself when I felt presumably “lost” compared to now when I feel purposeful and alive, is the way I choose to look at myself. I am still a professional golfer; I am still earning the same; I am basically the same person. I am still striving to grow, and I make mistakes, but the only difference is that I have chosen to be proud of what I am doing, and I believe that what I am doing now will serve society, if not now, in the distant future, and that what I am doing is meaningful.
Can you walk us through a time in your life when you felt lost? What ideas or tools helped you overcome this period?
I felt lost when I initially read the concept behind the Venn diagram in H. Garcia's book which suggests that your Ikigai would need to be something you are "good at” and fulfills what the world "needs." At one point, his definition and my own perspective of Ikizama led me to doubt if I should actually be golfing.
I believe I am a pretty good golfer, but I wasn't sure if I was good enough (I mean, if you're a professional at ANYTHING, how good is good enough?). Then, I questioned if the world “needed” me to play golf. Am I really serving the world as I chase white golf balls in fields and intend to score as low as possible? My goal with golf was to motivate others by playing well, but how do I quantify that? I could not see how my game was impacting others, and I truly doubted the meaning of my career which affected my results.
I kept golfing solely with the intuition that I needed to keep going, and I read books and talked with others to try to understand the core of “why” I keep playing. Last March, I even started a Podcast called “Ikizama: Way of Life,” to learn from others about their journey.
One day I stumbled across a Japanese book called “Tegami-Ya” (Letter Shop), and one of the themes that he talked about was “why and for what we work.” Long story short, a successful career is one that serves others, and I’ve read this in many other books. However, what really changed my perspective, is this following part.
“The bigger your dream, the challenges that must be overcome will be bigger.
This is the truth.
But it’s also true, that the harder and tougher the challenge, there will be more people who would appreciate it.
This is the other truth...
You, who still have not achieved anything right now may struggle to find the courage to take action. However, you must remember that you do have a lot of supporters. They are the millions and gazillions of people who will be grateful for your service once you have succeeded. They are waiting for you to succeed in the future.”
Thanks to this book, I realized that I can keep golfing, and that I might not be making huge impacts in the world today, but once I succeed, I will be at the service of many people.
What would be your advice to anyone struggling to live a life of Ikigai?
Believe that you will find it. Believe in yourself, just believe.
Reading Maho's Ikigai story provided a unique perspective on exploring "Ikigai". Her experience of feeling lost when seeing the Ikigai Venn Diagram and reflecting on her career as a professional golf player brought a new light onto the horizon that I am grateful for. It gave me a sense of drive to help share the authentic definition of Ikigai, which Maho beautifully puts as "what makes us feel alive", as it reminded me of the dangers of using such a Venn Diagram. Thank you, Maho, for sharing your Ikigai journey with an authentic voice and showing us the power of reflection and mindset.
Do you want to learn more?
You can follow and support Maho and her podcast below.
Podcast: Ikizama: Way of Life Podcast
Our founder, Saori, was also featured on Maho's podcast last month.
Don't miss out—be sure to check it out by clicking below!
What did this story bring up for you? Comment below.