Ikigai Book Review | Hamro Patro

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IKIGAI : Book Review

   Pranjal Khatiwada - Jul 29 2022

Ikigai, book by Héctor García and Frances Miralles is a wonderful collection of Japanese philosophies and lifestyle choices, to lead a long and happy life. The book is the collection of interviews with some of the longest living people on this planet, to unlock the secret to their ability to enjoy life to the fullest and sustain their mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

Japanese believe that one of the most important underpinning principles to happiness is to find one’s ‘Ikigai’. So, what is Ikigai? It can be roughly translated as ‘the reason for being’ or broadly ‘one’s life purpose.’ Once a person finds the true Ikigai, it gives them the unshakable conviction to face any challenges in life, no matter what life throws at them. So the question is: How do we find our life purpose or Ikigai?

Broadly, four elements underpin one’s Ikigai. The first principle of doing what you love is the most critical, and if what you love is also what you are good at, then it becomes your passion. And if what you love is what the world needs, then it becomes your mission. For some, these three elements are sufficient to sustain their life vision. For example, look at Mother Teresa, she loved her orphans and she believed that they needed care and she was amazing at what she did. However, for many, the 4th element is also an important factor, and that is to derive a decent income from what you do, a job from which you can be paid for, to at least lead a comfortable life and that is vocation. But, even if one earns a lot of money in a job, eventually, once the financial needs are met, more money is unlikely to encourage further participation in the job and it comes to the first three elements that are most likely to keep one from retiring.

Finding one’s Ikigai is very subjective and can take years. Logotherapy might be handy over there. It helps you to search for meaning. But the big question comes, how do we know when we have found our Ikigai? The answer can be found if you find yourself losing a sense of time and space because you are so engrossed in the activity itself. It is a state known as flow. Let’s take an example of an artist who can paint for hours without taking a break. The artist would be fully present in their work with little or no appreciation of their surroundings. Hence, suggesting that he has found his Ikigai.

Besides having your Ikigai, it is equally important to practice self-care. Just think, who would want to finally find their passion, only to realize that their health is failing and they will not be able to enjoy what they love in years to come? So with this in mind, there are four areas of self-care that are highlighted in the book. The first is the consumption of a healthy daily diet with vegetables and foods with high levels of antioxidants. For example muso, tofu, carrots, tuna, and enjoying jasmine or green tea. In addition, the interviewed participants also practice eating until they are only about 80% full which is a concept known as Hara Hachi Bu. They believe that overstressing their digestive system is not ideal for overall health and longevity. So in our daily lives, this concept of Hara Hachi Bu can be achieved by eating smaller portions or just skipping dessert.

The participants also told the importance of daily life exercise in the form of walking, gardening, or gentle mobility movements for 5 to 10 minutes. These daily activities may be combined with deep breathing exercises in nature. They also interact with friends daily to sustain mental and spiritual well-being, while recommending between 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adequate rest and physical recovery from the daily grind.

In our pursuit of our Ikigai, life may throw us challenges leading to stress and worry. Both these elements can lead to health problems. So how we perceive and manage challenging situations will in turn determine how well we maintain our overall health. The first principle is to appreciate that everything that happens in our lives, both the good and the bad, is not permanent. The concept of Ichi-go ichi-e advocates that we focus on the present and enjoy each enjoyable moment that life brings, fully engaged in the presence of our loved ones and friends. Also, that we don’t concern about past pains or future worries and be fully present in the moment because that very moment in time is passing and will be gone forever. And on the opposite side, when things are bad, understand the concept of Wabi-sabi which advocates that one should see beauty in things that are flawed and incomplete, searching for beauty in imperfection. In other words, appreciating that challenges while uncomfortable are an opportunity for growth.

Another key principle is the concept of Anti-fragility. We are more familiar with the idea of resilience. Antifragility though is deemed to supersede resilience. To quote a famous writer Nassim Taleb “The resilient resists shock and stays the same, but the antifragile gets better.” In short, rather than blindly resisting challenges it would be better to become resourceful and adaptable during a crisis. We see this in people or organizations who come out of troubled times in better shape than before the crisis. For example, a failing business may adapt its product to suit market trends. In addition, also creating new products and services for different clients. Hence, adding revenue streams and giving the company more options moving forward. So, always try to adapt and have multiple options in life because it is always useful to have more than one string to your bow.

Quoting from one of the interviews with a participant, “As I reflect on my search for my Ikigai, I realized that perhaps I didn't know what my Ikigai was many years ago, but I allowed life events, limiting beliefs, and external influences to nudge me off track.” Hence, if you are keen to find your Ikigai, take time for solitude and reflect on what you truly love and how you could make it a part of your life. Be aware of distractions and external influences that may throw you off track. Practice good self-care and take on any challenges in your stride. Then put in place, strategies that will one day allow you to live doing what you truly enjoy.

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