• Dr. Melanie O'Neill

What's my Ikigai?

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

Ikigai ( 生き甲斐 ) is a Japanese concept meaning "life purpose"-- and it involves more than just knowing what you're good at.


The Role of Education


In school, you probably had a favorite subject, and I'll guess that went along with a favorite teacher. I'll also guess that was the subject where you made the best grades. These are not coincidences! We like succeeding.


We have more stamina to overcome obstacles when we have a reserve of past success to draw from. It motivates us to work harder. Sadly, the reverse is also true.


Learned Helplessness

I remember walking into a classroom where our teacher had a sheet of paper on each desk. She told us to crumple our sheet into a ball. With one trash can in the front of the room, we were all told to make a basket.


Students near the trash can found this relatively easy. Those of us further away had a much harder time. This is what it's like to be a student with a learning difference. Sure, you are given the same materials and same objective as the other students, but accomplishing the task can be much harder.


Watch this inspiring call to recognize each student's unique gifts:




In American schools, we mistake struggle for weakness. This sets our students up for feeling like failures when something doesn't come easily. Read more here.



Discovering Ikigai requires us to redefine struggle as a natural part of the learning process.

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Melanie R. O'Neill, PsyD, BCB

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