Do you feel lost in life and want to find your purpose? Are you craving to live a more fulfilling and joyful life?
If so, then it’s time to look to the East and discover the ancient Japanese philosophy of Ikigai.
The book Ikigai talks about the Japanese island of Okinawa, which is a “blue zone,” or a place where people live to 100 or more years. On the island is Ogimi, more famously known as “The Village of Longevity.” People here have the highest life expectancy in the world.
How do they use ikigai principles to live such long and happy lives?
Summary of The Book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life.”
Quick Summary: Ikigai is the Japanese philosophy of living a long and happy life. Knowing and practicing our ikigai allows us to devote our time and energy to fulfill our life’s purpose. It brings meaning and passion to our personal and professional lives, helping us work optimally, live more fully, and form great relationships.
This summary will help you discover the purpose of your life, called ikigai, and reveal to you how you can use your ikigai to live a long, happy, and meaningful life.
What Is Ikigai?
Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that’s all about finding your purpose in life and living a long and happy existence. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Ikigai in Japanese means ‘“a reason for being,” “the thing that makes life worth living,” or “a reason to jump out of bed in the morning.”
“Ikigai” is your “reason for existing” or “raison d’être.”
In brief, ikigai is the idea that when you know your purpose in life and are able to pursue it, you’ll experience a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. This could be in your personal life, your professional life, or both.
Ikigai is also about forming meaningful relationships and contributing to your community.
When you’re living in alignment with your ikigai, you’re able to devote your time and energy to things that truly matter to you. You feel a sense of meaning and purpose in everything you do, which can lead to greater happiness and a more fulfilling life overall.
“Ikigai is not just about finding your “reason to exist” and pursuing it in isolation, but rather building on it while maintaining good relationships.”— Dr. Sandip Roy
What Is The Main Theme of The Book Ikigai?
The main theme of the book is that by discovering our ikigai, we can increase our lifespan, productivity, well-being, and sense of purpose in life.
Perhaps the more crucial idea in the book is that all of us, regardless of where we live or come from, can easily find our own ikigai.
Written by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” is an international bestseller that introduces us to a life-guiding Eastern philosophy.
If you’re looking for your life’s purpose, you’ll like this engaging and insightful book.
- Get the book: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
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García and Miralles draw on their own experiences and research to give us a detailed yet engaging look into how we may find and use our ikigai.
Finding Your Ikigai: The 4 Elements of Ikigai
So how can you find your own ikigai?
García and Miralles say, you first identify the four key elements of ikigai:
- Passion: What you love. Finding something that brings you joy and excitement.
- Mission: What you’re good at. Understanding why this passion matters to you.
- Vocation: What the world needs. Turning your passion into an occupation.
- Profession: What you can be paid for. Finding success in your career.
Together, these four elements bring out your sense of purpose and meaning in life. They inspire you to pursue what truly makes you happy and fulfilled.
So, explore your passions, talents, and values, and look for ways to align them with the needs of the world around you. You’ll discover what truly drives you and impact the world positively.
Remember, living in alignment with your ikigai is an ongoing process.
Finding your Ikigai is mostly a process of self-discovery. Moreover, ikigai is a life-long process that needs unending attention and affection.
The book “Ikigai” tell us that we must take time to explore what we love, what we are good at, what the world needs, and what we can be paid for.
Once we identify the activity that lies at the intersection of those four elements, we can devote our full interest and focus to it.
We can then pursue a job path that rouses our curiosity, fulfills our passions, and helps us to live a life we will be proud of.
The authors share tips and tools to help identify our ikigai, including goal-setting techniques, work-life balance recommendations, and gratitude and mindfulness practices.
They also talk about how important community and social connections are in finding and sustaining one’s ikigai.
7 Lessons From Ikigai
From the book, we learn that to get a sense of purpose, direction, and fulfillment in life, we should:
- Slow down and savor life. There’s no reason to rush through life, racing from one experience to another without stopping to smell the roses. We need to cherish the present moment and relish its joys rather than postpone our happiness so that we might live later.
- Keep working on your passion project without retiring. When you find something that you love doing every day, it is no longer work. Why stop doing it, even if you’re 65? Your purposeful work could be something you’ve always done, something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find time to do, or something you learned to do. Staying active is one of the best keys to a long life. Studies show that retirement can lead to early death.
- Never overeat, and never fill your stomach to the full. The Okinawans eat only until their stomachs are about 80% full, then stop. This is called “hara hachi bu.” Science supports this custom as it helps to extend one’s life by improving digestion and sleep. This eating pattern also prevents overeating, which is a major cause of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Smile and laugh. The Okinawan people recommend that we smile a lot and laugh our hearts out, as it relieves stress and makes us more cheerful and hopeful. They encourage us to spend time with our friends doing things that make us happy.
- Surround yourself with people who truly care about you. Okinawans believe that they live longer because they surround themselves with good friends. Science backs this up, and research shows that our friends are indeed the greatest source of our happiness. They give us a space to safely share our ideas and fears, encourage our attempts, and celebrate our successes. Friends also reduce feelings of overthinking and loneliness, both known risk factors for depression and physical illnesses.
- Exercise and dance. The ikigai philosophy tells us that we have to keep fit if we want to live a long and fulfilling life. Okinawans walk a lot and often gather in the evening to practice the traditional Okinawan dance. They think that we cannot follow our ikigai properly unless we have a healthy body. Science supports this, and research has proven that exercise can not only boost our mood but also keep away depression.
- Live in the moment and feel grateful for the good things in your life. Ikigai cannot occur in the absence of mindfulness and gratitude. When we are mindful, we do not waste time worrying about the future or overthinking the past. And when we are grateful, we find happiness in what we have rather than being upset about what we don’t.
The Ogimi people place a high value on spending time with friends and family, as well as living a life as stress free as possible.
History of Ikigai
Ikigai is a combination of two Japanese words, “iki”, meaning “life,” and “gai”, meaning “worth.” Together, they refer to one’s life’s worth, meaning, or purpose. Ikigai is a core concept in Japanese philosophy.
The Japanese see ikigai as an essential aspect of their identity, closely tied to their career or calling. It surrounds their lives and work, and has long shaped their social and cultural norms. They truly hold that their ikigai is the reason why they exist.
In 2016, Hector Garcia, a former software engineer who was born in Spain, but has lived in Japan for over 13 years, joined forces with Francesc Miralles, one of the most charismatic modern authors in Spain, to investigate the concept of ikigai.
The result was Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life — a book that has changed lives by introducing the West to this simple philosophy of happiness. García and Miralles tell us how we too may use it to find joy whether we are alone, at work, or with others.
Benefits of Ikigai
Using Ikigai has multiple benefits, including increased self-awareness, improved mental health and well-being, better relationships with others, and more meaningful work.
Ikigai has a range of positive effects on physical and mental health. It teaches us how to live a happier, more fulfilling, passionate, and authentic life.
The authors present evidence suggesting people with a strong sense of ikigai live longer, healthier lives with lower rates of stress and depression. They also highlight ikigai’s function in promoting social connections, creativity, and overall well-being.
Research shows that having an ikigai is associated with better physical health (Murata, 2006), lower mortality (Tanno, 2009), and reduced functional disability (Mori, 2017).
A study published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction suggests that ikigai positively predicted well-being and negatively predicted depression (Wilkes & Garip, 2022).
Ikigai In The Modern World
Here’s an ikigai anecdote:
Kyotango, a small town in Kyoto, has three times more 100-year-old residents when compared to Japan’s average. Takeshi Kitano, a Japanese movie director, followed some of these people to find out what the secret to their happy life was.
Kitano realized that they all had something in common: a hobby that they practiced every single day.
For a few hours each day, they did that one thing that kept them focused and interested. Like, one of the men painted, while one of the women carved traditional Japanese masks.
Kitano felt that this one daily activity creates a sense of meaningful purpose in their lives. And this leads them toward a happier and longer life.
It is hard to focus on our “ikigai” in the Western world today. We are under social pressure to conform to peer expectations and cultural norms, and often prioritize money and success over happiness.
But Garcia and Miralles say we can easily identify our unique ikigai in the modern world to create balance, fulfillment, and happiness in our lives.
To overcome these modern toxic behaviors, we need courage (to learn) as well as flexibility (to unlearn).
Some ways to find our Ikigai are through self-introspection, mindfulness, and having an attitude of gratitude. and apply it to better our relationships, work-life balance, and creativity.
Hector Garcia wrote in a post in The Guardian:
The lesson we can draw from the people of Japan – and specifically the residents of Okinawa – is that we should do less when we are feeling overwhelmed, but keep busy when we feel like doing nothing. Don’t overwork, but don’t fritter those hours away either. The answer to longevity may well rely on a balance between the two.
The book “Ikigai” shares many anecdotes and experiences from people who have found their own ikigai, as well as practical guidance and motivation to help us find ours.
García and Miralles promise us that finding our “ikigai” is not an impossible or complicated task. They also tell us that we must consciously nurture it once we find it.
Ikigai is a never-ending process that requires time and love, much like we need to water our plants regularly.
Both reviewers and readers have praised Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
Reviewers have lauded the book as a “thought-provoking,” “insightful,” and “inspiring” read, while readers have enjoyed the inspirational stories in it.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher, who writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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