Ikigai: the Japanese secret to a long and happy life 

authors : Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

Published : April 2016

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is beautifully designed and laid out. It provides a great place to start on your own or your client’s journey to understand and embrace the Japanese idea of ikigai.

Héctor García and Francesc Miralles begin this delightful book by telling the reader how the idea for it started to take shape over several meetings in a small Tokyo bar.

As their friendship grew, they became increasingly aware of their shared interest in answering a question that has challenged philosophers, poets, and writers for thousands of years: What is the meaning of life?

It was not long before they turned their attention to the Japanese concept of ikigai. The word translates, more or less, to “the happiness of always being busy” and may go some small way to explaining the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese people.

While many Japanese live a simple, healthy life, with good food and plenty of time outdoors, the authors suggest ikigai has a profound effect on their lives. The book’s goal is to capture and share the ideas behind ikigai and teach how adopting its principles can lead to a “long and joyful journey through life.”

According to the residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa, it is the reason they get up in the morning. And there must be something in it. Okinawa belongs to a “blue zone” (one of only a few places in the world identified for longevity and wellbeing) and has more people who have passed 100 years than anywhere else in the world.

Ikigai is found in our state of devotion to the activities we perform and enjoy. A sense of fulfillment and your reason for being arise from self-knowledge and, as represented in the diagram below:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for

The ikigai diagram: A philosophical perspective 

The book has more than one purpose. Firstly, it explores Ikigai-inspired lifestyle habits that help us live a long and healthy life, such as our ability to manage stress, avoid a sedentary lifestyle, value emotional awareness, develop a positive attitude, and get adequate sleep.

But it also helps the reader find their Ikigai.

The text builds on Viktor Frankl’s work on searching for reasons to live and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow concept. It then explores meditation and resilience before concluding with 10 rules of ikigai that neatly wrap up the book and its overarching message:

Stay active, do not retire.

  1. Take it slow.
  2. Don’t fill your stomach.
  3. Surround yourself with good friends.
  4. Get in shape.
  5. Smile.
  6. Reconnect with nature.
  7. Give thanks.
  8. Live in the moment.
  9. Follow your ikigai.

Without exception, the advice is excellent. After all, our passions and talents are unique to each of us. If we know them, they should be shared and experienced here and now; if we don’t, our mission should be their discovery. This is a delightful book, written with both style and elegance that clearly explains the concepts behind ikigai while offering practical advice.

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