Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Ikigai is a guide that gives you step by step instructions on how to have an optimal and worthwhile life.

When I started to read the book, I questioned myself. Why would I want to live a long life? Given that we are facing this coronavirus pandemic on top of climate change and other disasters, it was incomprehensible to me for someone to want to live longer with a reduced quality of life.

As I progressed further in the book, the concept of Ikigai revealed itself. The idea is to be able to wake up everyday in good spirit, and do something that is a win-win for you, the world and the people around you.

To be honest, this is not the first time I have encountered this term: IKIGAI.

The first time I learnt of Ikigai was through a youtube video by Jay Shetty on HuffPost a few years ago. The diagram of the 4 circles was quite impactful, yet that is where I got stuck. I think I was not mature enough to understand the concept. It requires you to have a sense of self-awareness to really dig deep into yourself, and analyze yourself to find your ikigai.

The book suggests to find something that makes the following statements true simultaneously (See diagram below).

  1. What you love to do
  2. What you are good at
  3. What you can be paid for
  4. What the world needs

For many people though, it is not that easy.

Ikigai is the state of being happy doing what you love and what you are good at while fulfilling one of world’s needs and getting paid for it. It might be that your current job is not something that you love doing but it ticks the other 3 checkboxes.

The book describes different methods that people use to find their “path”. Logotherapy, psychoanalysis, Morita therapy, Naikan meditation etc. The common factor among these methods seem to be reflecting on yourself and expressing yourself out loud either with a therapist or through journaling.

Finding your purpose seems to be a loop that goes as follows:

  1. Person feels frustrated, empty or anxious. -> if yes go to 2
  2. This frustration should normally result in a catalyst for change, which is when the person goes to step 3.
  3. Person, through therapist/ other form of analysis is shown that what he is feeling is the desire to have a meaningful life. -> if yes, go to 4
  4. Person finds life’s purpose at any particular period in time. -> if yes go to 5
  5. Of his own will, person accepts/rejects destiny. -> if yes, go to 6, or if no go to 1
  6. Newfound passion for life helps him overcome obstacles/sorrows.

My favourite part is chapter 4 where we are presented with the tools to get moving along the path that we found for ourselves. This chapter gives executable instructions on how to get into focus, so that we can get into a flow.

Ikigai means purpose in life and one key ingredient to find that is the ability to reach this state of flow and through this state to have an optimal experience.

Chapter 4

This chapter is very interesting to me as they are very concrete tips on how productivity and efficiency and I am an ardent lover of anything that makes processes more efficient for optimal results. The book goes on to build on how we should be anti-fragile to be able to move on after a setback rather than resilient which would mean we stay the same after a shock.

The book recounts many routines of supercentenarians and centenarians that were interviewed. The authors sought out the patterns that emerged and many of them are not theoretically unfamiliar. Eating a good and balanced diet, constant movement, having fun, interacting with people are just a few rituals that people include in their daily life.

Reading about the lives of the Japanese mentioned in the book made me envious. Their lives were simple, unencumbered by technology and the worries of being liked by strangers on the internet.

I could not have chosen a better time to read this book. I have lived almost a quarter of my life and I still feel unsure of who I am, what I love doing, what I am good at. I hope I can implement some of what I have learnt through the book in my life.

Thank you for reading.

Have you read this book? Did you find it useful? Have you found your Ikigai? Comment below for your views/opinions.

The book that I am going to read this week is: Think like a Monk by Jay Shetty.

See you next week for a new review.

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