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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (2016)

by Héctor García, Francesc Miralles

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7641425,608 (3.46)12
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai--a reason for living. And according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world's longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. Ikigai reveals their secrets: how they eat, move, and work, how they foster collaboration and community, and--the best-kept secret--how they find the ikigai that brings satisfaction to their lives. And it provides practical tools to help you discover your own ikigai. Because who doesn't want to find happiness in every day?… (more)

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help me finding my passion
  atiqafaisal | Sep 3, 2022 |
An interesting topic, but it's watered down by fluff and weird nonsense. Also otaku does not mean "anime fan" lmao, and is not necessarily a positive in Japan either. There's a lot of Japanese words and phrases thrown around, but the nitty gritty of the town and Japan in general reads like it was written by someone who only vacationed there once. We get a whole section to Miyazaki as some pure soul, which is hilarious given his actual personality. There's some Steve Jobs idolization too, a common theme in self-help books. I don't know why these kinds of people always think mentioning Steve Jobs means I'll think I'm about to get some deep wisdom. And I really don't know what either of them have to do with this town in Okinawa of long lived people. Steve Jobs quite famously died younger than he should have by refusing to use medical treatments readily available to him for his treatable issues. Miyazaki may be an obsessive person, but that's not a guarantee he will live to some record number. As of me writing this review, he still hasn't passed Japan's (albeit higher than average) average lifespan yet, and he obviously was even younger in 2016 when this book was written, when he would've been 75 then and about a full decade younger than the average Japanese lifespan. For Japan, he's still quite average and even at the time would've been globally average anyway. It just doesn't help illustrate their point. The fact that there's a lot of high stress in work and education environments in Japan is completely glossed over, with the authors suggesting most Japanese people just love to always be busy, hardworking, no matter what and this makes them lead more fulfilling, long lives. Doesn't really mesh with karoshi and hikikomori both being problems within the country in part due to overworking and unrealistic expectations put on people. This book paints a fairytale. Reality is more complex.

There is some proper research in here. But most of the "sources" are, as is common with these books, other pop psych books and newspaper articles about "science" written by people not within those fields about papers they didn't write to start with. You will read the classic "science says" many time, a phrase despised by actual scientists, but loved by people trying to sound smart. "Science" does not "say" anything. A few times we get proper references in the text to a specific person or university, but even then we don't get anything but surface level claims. I'd say only Viktor Frankl's work and Morita therapy are discussed in enough depth and related enough to the main topic to be worth including in here.

Some of it steers right into complete nonsense. Nothing in here ties into anything properly. We don't get much about how this long-lived town is similar or different to other towns with very long-lived record holders. We don't get much information about the people in this town beyond some irrelevant quotes that are treated with the same weight as all those "science says" statements.

The real meat of the book can be found in better researched works, but here's the main points. To live a long time: find a fulfilling purpose, stay moderately active into old age, eat a nutritionally diverse diet within the correct calorie amount for your body, and live in an environment that will allow you to not have to be deeply stressed most of your entire life. How will you do these things? Who knows. That's not the authors' concern, much like the in depth lives of the town isn't either.

As a note, the word "ikigai" doesn't really quite mean "main life purpose" exactly either, and the way it's been presented in a lot of western publications has little to do, unsurprisingly, with Japanese culture but more, well, a fantasy of it. Reminds me of when a lot of budget books where slapping "kakeibo" on everything and claiming it was a unique, extra special Japanese technique for budgeting and not just using a physical budgeting book+the envelope system. Truly mystical. ( )
  somerainstorms | Jun 7, 2022 |
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia

Why I picked this book up: A 67 yo Mexican male, max security inmate, told me, “I am broken.” “I am in prison because my daughter told them (the police) that I was hitting her because her lip was bleeding all over and that I had her in the ground which isn’t the truth and later she even admitted it was a lie and now I am serving life in prison. “I am broken and hurting bad, but my daughter went off on me for never being around her, messing around with all the gang stuff and being locked down for years and she blames me and I never knew being away from my family was this bad.” “Really I told her to stop using drugs and to get right for my great granddaughter and homhas selective mutism but she laid into me for not being there in her life because I’ve been locked up for years. Now I am trying to learn about the Japanese concept of Ikigai that is when pottery gets broke and instead of throwing it away like it was ruined but I am learning how to take the broken pieces and make a whole new beautiful new thing from the pieces.” Since he told me about this concept I picked this book up to see what it is about.

Thoughts: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is a powerful and well-researched account of the inspiring lives of Japanese supercentenarians (people living beyond the age of 110) from the longest-living community in the world: Okinawa.

Chapter by chapter, the book walks you through Okinawans’ lifestyles, their mindsets, attitudes, diets, and routines, encouraging you to find your own ikigai. The term can be translated as one’s reason for being, although this is an interpretation since in Japanese it literally means lifetime and everyday life

1. It Made Me Feel Like I Have a Purpose (“Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one
thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning.”― Francesco
Miralles and Hector Garcia
2. It Made Me Feel Like I Have a Purpose. (“There is no future, no past. There is only the present.”― Francesco Miralles and Hector Garcia)
3. It Shows That Happiness Lies in Simplicity (“Essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”
― Francesco Miralles and Hector Garcia
4. It Promotes an Intuitive Approach to Health“The keys to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (an ikigai), and forming strong social ties.”
― Francesco Miralles and Hector Garcia It Made Me Regain My Positivity
5. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
― Francesco Miralles and Hector Garcia
Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano (2017) has said that ikigai is a state of wellbeing that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys, ...

Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.”
When combined, these terms mean that which gives your life worth, meaning, or purpose.
Ikigai is similar to the French term “raison d’etre” or “reason for being.”

The concept of ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. This medical tradition holds that physical wellbeing is affected by one’s mental–emotional health and sense of purpose in life.
Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano (2017) has said that ikigai is a state of wellbeing that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys, which also brings a sense of fulfillment.
Michiko further distinguishes ikigai from transitory pleasure (hedonia, in the ancient Greek sense) and aligns it with eudaimonia – the ancient Greek sense of a life well lived, leading to the highest and most lasting form of happiness.
Ikigai also resonates with Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy’s emphasis on pursuing activities that produce enjoyment and a sense of mastery, specifically as a way to alleviate depressive disorder.
Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai (2018, p. 3), says that ikigai is an ancient and familiar concept for the Japanese, which can be translated simply as “a reason to get up in the morning” or, more poetically, “waking up to joy.”
Ikigai also appears related to the concept of flow, as described in the work of Hungarian–American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For Csikszentmihalyi, flow occurs when you are in your “zone,” as they say of high-performing athletes.
Flow is a string of “best moments” or moments when we are at our best. These best moments “usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limit, in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
Flow can be said to occur when you are consistently doing something you love and that you are good at, with the possible added benefit of bringing value to others’ lives. In such a case, flow might be seen as in tune with your ikigai, or activities that give your life meaning and purpose.
It is important to note that ikigai does not typically refer only to one’s personal purpose and fulfillment in life, without regard to others or society at large.
Although it has had some historical shifts in meaning, ikigai has usually been cited as both a personal pursuit and one of benefit to others. In the end, ikigai brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to your life, while also contributing to the good of others.
Further, it is said that everyone has an ikigai – their particular intersection of passion, talent, and potential to benefit others. It is only a matter of finding it. The journey to ikigai might require time, deep self-reflection, and effort, but it is one we can all make.
The concept of ikigai as a purpose in life with both personal and social dimensions is captured by the well-known ikigai diagram. This diagram includes overlapping spheres covering:
* What you love
* What you are good at
* What the world needs
* What you can get paid for
The Ikigai Diagram: A Philosophical Perspective

Adapted from PositivePsychology.com’s Toolkit, 2020
As this diagram shows, ikigai holds the central position and involves four major spheres of interest and how they might overlap in one’s life. In trying to determine your own personal ikigai with the help of such a diagram, you would fill in each sphere with its appropriate content based on your own experiences, self-knowledge, and understanding of the world.
Some of the content that would go into these spheres might come easily to you. Other content might take more time and self-reflection. In any case, filling in such a diagram can help clarify where you stand in your search for ikigai and how to make any needed adjustments to attain this sometimes elusive way of being.

You Love It
This sphere includes what we do or experience that brings us the most joy in life and makes us feel most alive and fulfilled. What we love in this sense might be sailing, writing poetry, rock climbing, singing in a rock band, reading historical novels, spending leisure time with friends, etc.
What is important is that we allow ourselves to think deeply about what we love, without any concern for whether we are good at it, whether the world needs it, or if we can get paid for doing it.

You Are Great at It
This sphere includes anything you are particularly good at, such as skills you’ve learned, hobbies you’ve pursued, talents you’ve shown since an early age, etc. What you are good at might be, for example, playing the piano, being empathic, public speaking, sports, brain surgery, or painting portraits.
This sphere encompasses talents or capabilities, whether or not you are passionate about them, whether the world needs them, or if you can get paid for them.

The World Needs It
The “world” here might be humanity as a whole, a small community you are in touch with, or anything in between. What the world needs might be based on your impressions or needs expressed by others. The world’s needs might include skilled nursing, clean water, home heating, election day volunteers, or improved police training.
This domain of ikigai connects most explicitly with other people and doing good for them, beyond one’s own needs.

You Are Paid for It
This dimension of the diagram also refers to the world or society at large, in that it involves what someone else is willing to pay you for or “what the market will bear.” You might be passionate about writing poetry or very good at rock climbing, but this does not necessarily mean you can get paid for it.
Whether you can get paid for your passions or talents depends on factors such as the state of the economy, whether your passions/talents are in demand, etc.

It is further noted that according to this diagram:
At the intersection of what you love and what you are good at is your passion.
At the intersection of what you love and what the world needs is your mission.
At the intersection of what the world needs and what you can get paid for is your vocation.
At the intersection of what you are good at and what you can get paid for is your profession.
A “sweet spot” within this ikigai diagram would therefore involve something you are passionate about, that you are also good at, that the world needs now, and for which someone will pay you. For example, if I am passionate about crisis counseling, am also skilled at it, there is a need for it in my world at the time, and I have several job offers in this field, I might say I’ve found my ikigai sweet spot.
There is a healthy debate about whether the diagram discussed above best represents the traditional Japanese concept of ikigai or a Westernized version of it.
Not all the above dimensions are necessarily components of ikigai as traditionally understood by its Japanese adherents (Ikigai Tribe, 2019).
Some adherents will say that one’s ikigai does not have to involve something the world needs, or that you can get paid for, or that is a talent. These adherents hold that ikigai is not a “lofty and formidable goal to achieve” (Ikigai Tribe, 2019). Instead, they believe that the traditional Japanese concept of ikigai is closer to:
“…embracing the joy of little things, being in the here and now, reflecting on past happy memories, and having a frame of mind that one can build a happy and active life.”
(Ikigai Tribe, 2019)
Such a concept of ikigai reportedly has little to do with “professional success or entrepreneurship” (Ikigai Tribe, 2019).
This conception of ikigai sounds close to a Zen Buddhist mentality, emphasizing being active, being in the moment, taking joy in the small occurrences in life, and finding a state of flow in one’s life (Hatwalne, 2020).
Whether the ikigai diagram above is traditional or not, filling it in is arguably a useful task. And whether or not the center of such a diagram would represent your personal “sweet spot” as a lifestyle, it should still be useful to determine what “sweet spot” you might find that combines the basic dimensions of “I am passionate about this; it makes me happy” and “This would allow me to do good for others, as well.”

3 Examples of Living According to Ikigai

The famous Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono provides an apt illustration of ikigai, conceived as devotion to a pursuit that brings a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment.
Chef Ono has devoted his life to innovating and perfecting sushi-making techniques. He runs a small, exclusive 10-seat sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.
Chef Ono has achieved the highest Michelin restaurant guide rating of three stars and is widely considered the most accomplished sushi chef globally. In Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Gelb, Iwashina, Pellegrini, & Ono, 2012), the award-winning documentary about his life and work, Chef Ono states:
“You have to fall in love with your work… dedicate your life to mastering your skill… I’ll keep trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.”
(Age of Ideas, 2020)
This is a good illustration of ikigai as a devotion to what one loves, an effort toward mastery and accomplishment, and a never-ending journey that also brings a sense of fulfillment.
Interestingly, Chef Ono does not only manage the preparation of sushi in his restaurant. Due to its small size and open layout, he can observe up close his customers’ tasting and reactions to a meal and is known to modify the sushi based on such reactions.
Central to Chef Ono’s ikigai, one might say, would be pursuing excellence in sushi preparation and sharing this excellence with those who love sushi and fine dining.
Other individuals who can be said to exemplify finding ikigai include the world-famous primatologist, Jane Goodall.
Goodall has had a passion for animals, and especially primates, from an early age. In her early 20s, she pursued her passion for primates by writing to the anthropologist Louis Leakey. Leakey thought the study of present-day great apes would provide clues about the behavior of his primary interest: early human ancestors.
With Leakey’s help, Goodall started her lifelong study of apes in the wild. She became highly skilled at working closely with apes, documenting their intelligence and social interactions. She also became an animal rights advocate who has helped save apes and other animals from harmful experiments and the destruction of their habitats.
In this way, Goodall has pursued her passion, become skilled in this field, filled the world’s need for knowledge/protection of primates, and earned a living doing all this by publishing books on ape behavior and earning speaking fees.
One might say that central to her ikigai is connecting with, learning about, and advocating for the great apes, and through this connection, linking up in positive ways with all living things.
Another example of someone having found their ikigai, or fulfilling purpose in life, can be seen in surfer and wildlife advocate Dave Rastovich. Rastovich is a highly acclaimed “free” surfer with generous sponsorships but no contest involvement. He founded Surfers for Cetaceans, an organization devoted to protecting cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, and whales) and all marine life.
Through his love of surfing and the ocean, Rastovich grew to admire the many dolphins who came to ride waves with him in Byron Bay, Australia. Rastovich has clearly experienced a particular type of flow with his surfing. Through it, he came to appreciate the lives of cetaceans in particular.
His ikigai might be said to lie in the pursuit of flow states in surfing and ensuring that other living creatures like cetaceans get to experience their own flow states, rather than being hunted, held in aquariums, or trapped in fishing nets.

A fillable ikigai diagram is one of the three free downloads in the PositivePsychology.com Toolkit. This diagram allows you to fill in what you love, what you are great at, what you believe the world needs, and what you can get paid for.
We hope that you will gain further insight into your purpose in life and motivation for pursuing it in filling out the diagram.

A Take-Home Message
Searching for ikigai, one’s reason for being or waking each morning joyfully, is arguably what many people are doing already, whether consciously or not. Even though the conceptions of ikigai can vary, as we have seen, there is general agreement that finding this motivating purpose in life is associated with greater fulfillment and happiness.
There are basic human drives to pursue our passions, develop our talents, help others, and make a living. Simultaneously, it is not always clear where these drives might coalesce in a path that leads to a fulfilling life. This is where reflection and self-study come in.
We hope this article has inspired you to reflect on your own ikigai and to pursue it using an ikigai diagram or your own form of self-reflection. Don’t forget to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.

In my gut I have felt the monetizing of a transcendent quality of one’s inner being abrasive and discordant..Life and our purpose do not gravitate around what we can take to the bank and I think all that is broken in society and government Why I finished this read: Okinawans view ikigai as a way to describe the 'why' behind their daily life. They have a reason to get up in the morning, which means they have something to live for. Ikigai is the philosophy that blissfully keeps them busy until the end of their days. Other cultures follow a path that society has created for us.Apr

Why I finished this read: Camus’ philosophy of absurdism, living in the now, how to live in the present and Marcus Aurelius’ how to stop worrying (Stoicism) and mindfulness I am getting into so I wanted to finish it.

I rated this 4 out I’d 5 stars. ( )
  DrT | Mar 15, 2022 |
My take on this in summary: Self-discipline is of utmost importance and single filed mind is the best to be fully productive as opposed to multi-tasking. We may have many ikigai's but doing it one at a time, fully focus at each one and diligently is the best. Too many distractions in life such as soc-med will disrupt our concentration so to tone down our mind and hone our skill by doing meditation and ritual of sorts like a simple exercise, yoga, qigong and tai chi to name a few.

You can read my full review here:
http://www.sholee.net/2020/04/mpov-ikigai.html ( )
  Sholee | Sep 9, 2021 |
This could have been a good book, but the authors would need to go and spend a substantial amount of time living with these old folks. Apart from a few quotes there was very little detailed information about the Japanese town in which people live so long. There were a few takeaways, but nothing particularly new or surprising. Which is a pity really, because some proper travel writing about the village combined with an insight into Japanese philosophy and with a scientific reflection could be a decent read. ( )
  KittyCatrinCat | Aug 29, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Héctor Garcíaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miralles, Francescmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Cleary, HeatherTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.
  -- Japanese proverb
For my brother, Aitor, who's said to me more often than anyone else' I don't know what to do with my life."
-- Hector Garcia

For all my past, present, and future friends, for being my home and my motivation along the way. -- Francesc Miralles
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What is your reason for being?
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai--what a French philosopher might call a raison d'etre.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai--a reason for living. And according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world's longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. Ikigai reveals their secrets: how they eat, move, and work, how they foster collaboration and community, and--the best-kept secret--how they find the ikigai that brings satisfaction to their lives. And it provides practical tools to help you discover your own ikigai. Because who doesn't want to find happiness in every day?

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