Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life was an enjoyable read. The book focuses on Okinawa in Japan, which is one of the “Blue Zones” where people live the longest in the world. The authors interviewed more than 100 villagers in Okinawa about their philosophy for a long & happy life and document their main findings in this book.
What is Japanese Ikigai? The word Ikigai or “生き甲斐” in Japanese refers to both “the happiness of being busy” and of having “a reason to get up in the morning”. In this book we learn that having an “Ikigai” is one of the key factors attributing to the longevity of the Okinawans.
Ikigai by Francesc Miralles could have been structured better but all in all, I got some very useful insights from it. I intend for this to be more than just another Ikigai book review or Ikigai book summary – below, I will give you my high level insights.
If hygge is the art of doing nothing, ikigai is the art of doing something—and doing it with supreme focus and joy.
— New York Post
1. Feeling depressed or frustrated in your life-circumstance? This can be a very good thing
Existential frustration or a mental breakdown can happen when somebody feels like their life lacks purpose.
This can be a very positive thing to happen as it is a catalyst for change. It is a “natural and beneficial phenomenon” that drives those who suffer from it to change their outcome, and in doing so to “find greater satisfaction in life”.
2. Find your purpose in life, or several
The Okinawans find an Ikigai, or several of them.
There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that will give you meaning and the Okinawans believe that it is your mission to find it.
3. Once you have found your “Ikigai”, pursue it calmly & with a positive attitude
The Japanese pursue their passions in life but always with a sense of calm. They are never in a rush. The key is to have a significant challenge but not so big that it causes stress. They face challenges with a positive outlook and are able to manage their emotions. They maintain a “stoic” attitude – serenity in case of a setback.
In direct contrast, our high stress lifestyles in the west causes premature aging on our bodies. Previous studies have found that the greater the stress, the greater the degenerative effect on our cells.
One way that we can deal with the stress is our daily lives is to filter it out via meditation, mindfulness & yoga.
4. Your aim should be to spend as much time as possible in a state of flow
A happy man, is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future
The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.
Flow is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
Flow is when we are ultimately present-focused and entirely absorbed in the activity. For example, when you are skiing down a hill or you cook and you thoroughly enjoy the entire experience. You take so much pleasure in the activity that you lose all sense of time.
Note, that if you cannot achieve “flow” with an activity that you like, this does not necessarily mean that it is not right for you. The book gives very useful insights into how to achieve and maximize your “flow”.
5. For the routine boring tasks, embrace “microflow”
Our ability to turn routine tasks into moments of microflow, into something we enjoy, is key to being happy, since we all have to do these tasks.
6 Have resilience & anti-fragility
The Japanese pursue their passion no matter what. They never give up. They cultivate an attitude to stay focused on the important things in life rather than what is most urgent. And they prevent themselves from being carried away from negative emotions.
They are flexible and change to reach their goals – focusing on things that they can control and not worrying about what they cannot.
They also embrace anti-fragility. This means finding a way to get stronger with every blow. And also they they do not leave themselves open to vulnerability.
Noted that all of the Okinawans interviewed had a second job (mostly selling from their vegetable garden).
7. Never retire
Having a purpose in life is so important in Japanese culture that the idea of retirement does not really exist. They remain highly active after they “officially” retire.
8. Do not worry too much if you cannot find your “Ikigai”
The key is to follow the things that enjoy, and to filter out the things that you do not enjoy. Keep being curious and keep yourself busy with the things that fill you with the most meaning and happiness. It can be as simple as caring for a child or in helping out people who need it.
We should not worry too much about finding our Ikigai. Life is not a problem to be solved. Awakening your Ikigai is not always so complex. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.
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