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Book review: Ikigai

Why do you get up in the morning? What is your reason for living, your passion? In other words: what is your ikigai? According to Japanese tradition, everyone has an ikigai, which is one of the secrets of a long, healthy, happy life. In fact, it’s one of the secrets of the Blue Zone Okinawa, where some of healthiest people in the world live. So what is ikigai?

I recently read a book by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia, called ikigai. I had heard about it before and have always been really interested in this concept. Mostly because it’s supposedly one of the secrets of why the Japanese people of the island Okinawa live such long, healthy lives. Plus: it makes so much sense to me. My days are always much happier if I have something specific to do; a goal. That’s basically what Ikigai is.

What is ikigai?

Very simply put, ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. If you have a clear view of your ikigai, your passion, you will be more content, happy and your life will feel more meaningful. Ikigai is one of the reasons people in the Blue Zone Okinawa are one of the healthiest people in the world. Ikigai, combined with eating mostly plant-based foods, having a strong social network and moderate exercise. The book focuses on the first concept: your life goal, or ikigai.

Ikigai is believed to slow down the aging process. It is beneficial for humans to encounter new situations, learn something new every day, play games and stay busy, preferably with other people. This social aspect is also important if you want to live a long life.

Live in the now

The book describes some stories of the locals of Okinawa and what they believe is the reason for their long life. They come up with a number of reasons, like being able to relax, eat well, sleep well, and keep your mind and body busy. Also, it is important to focus on the present, and if you’re suffering to accept that suffering. If you manage to live fully in the present and accept everything that comes your way, you will find that you are able to deal with every situation.

Find your ikigai

Back to ikigai – what if you don’t have a passion, or a goal, or what if you don’t really like getting up in the morning? The key, according to the book, is to dare to look deep within yourself and find this ikigai, because we all have it. You can do so through meditation, or through trying lots of new things and discovering what you love to do. You will know what your ikigai is, because it gets you in a flow, where time stands still and you are completely immersed in life. This is complete joy and creativity – ikigai. According to the book there are seven prerequisites to achieve this flow: knowing what to do, how to do it, how good to do it, where to go, it has to be challenging, require skill and you can’t be distracted.

Get in the flow

Examples of flow are playing (video-)games and sports, because they involve a clear goal by following a number of set rules. In reality it’s not always that simple. The authors give the example of writing a research article, which I can completely relate to! I love being in the writing-flow, but sometimes I get so easily distracted. In theory it’s simple: write an introduction, theoretical framework, method, results and discussion. In practice I’ve been on Facebook and Instagram five times halfway through my first paragraph.

The 10 ikigai rules

At the end of the book the authors summarize the most important ‘secrets’ to living a long life: don’t worry, have good habits, nourish your friendships, don’t live in a hurry, and be optimistic. The people of Okinawa also exercise moderately. The authors recommend stretching in the morning, practice yoga and go on short walks. Most importantly: don’t worry about what you can’t control and live in the moment. In short, the 10 ikigai rules:

  1. Stay active
  2. Take it easy
  3. Do not stuff yourself with food. Eat until you’re 80% satistied
  4. Surround yourself with good friends
  5. Improve your physical condition each year
  6. Laugh
  7. Go into nature
  8. Be grateful
  9. Live in the now
  10. Follow your ikigai

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