Ikigai is the Japanese way of life, which makes people want to make the most of the present moment and live a long, healthy life.
Ikigai The Japanese secret to a long and happy life by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles.
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The authors came about writing this book over a deep discussion on psychology, especially pondering on Victor Frankl’s logotherapy and how it’s not in trend anymore. Ikigai comes up in the conversation, and both authors decide to get to the root of this concept and share it with the world.
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Interviews were conducted, and a deep dive was taken to simplify the concept and present it to the world to apply it efficiently, as the Japanese do. The book includes illustrations of exercises for healthy living, being in the present, and other practices that make life fulfilling.
The only moment in which you can truly be alive is the present moment.Thích Nhất Hạnh
Ikigai – The Book Structure/Format ?
The book has nine chapters, a prologue and an epilogue, which should not be missed. A section of notes and suggestions for further reading are also present. The prologue gives an insight into how the book came into being and built a foundation of understanding for the rest of the book.
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 1 and 2 explain what the term ikigai means, igniting a philosophical question of the reason for being. It explains how having a clearly defined ikigai can lead to satisfaction and happiness and bring meaning to our lives.
The chapter brings forth ideas from various other professionals and how they have understood ikigai, while comparing it to the lives of the people in the West. In the first chapter, we are introduced to Okinawa, the island of (almost) eternal youth, and the rest of the book builds on their lifestyles and those who reside in the five Blue Zones.
The centenarians are taken as ideals to understand how they worked all their lives, remained healthy and retired was not something they would consider a positive way of life. An insight into the Moai and their life structure is also given.
The following chapter discusses how stress works, shows comparison tables with cave dwellers, and various other anti-aging habits are discussed and explained.
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 3 and 4 are the major takeaways from this book, explaining what logotherapy and Ikigai have in common. Also, a comparison between psychoanalysis and logotherapy is shown, along with several case studies of Victor Frankl and his patients.
Morita Therapy is also outlined in this chapter, which can significantly impact the reader as they navigate the many emotions that come up in life. The fourth chapter takes this introspective discussion forward and explains what ‘flow’ means.
It essentially outlines how you can make your work as well as free time into spaces of growth. Three strategies for achieving the flow are explained, and light is thrown on the Japanese Takumis (artisans), engineers, geniuses and otakus (fans of anime and manga) and how they have found their ikigai and flow.
Chapters 5 to 8
Chapters 5 to 8 discuss various ways in which life can be prolonged and a healthy life can be achieved by taking inspiration from the lives of the Japanese. Interviews from several centenarians are included. A deeper understanding of the cultural aspects of these people is shown in their ritualistic approaches, socializing, eating habits and movement. Many lessons are to be learned from these last few chapters and many notes.
Chapter 9 talks about resilience and wabi-sabi, understanding how we can face the challenges of life without the stress and worry aging us. Wabi-sabi and ichi-go ichi-e are two Japanese concepts that are explained.
Resilience is defined in a beautiful way in this chapter that can bring a positive angle to it. Another unique concept that is introduced is antifragility, as coined by Nicholas Taleb. Three steps to apply the concept in our lives are also explained.
The epilogue concludes the book beautifully and should be read as a summary and overview of the various concepts covered.
Ikigai – Notable Positive Features ?
The book is small and easy to read. The chapters are well constructed, and it doesn’t complicate the concept. What is significant is the insight into the Japanese culture, lifestyle and facts that would be impossible for a layman to be able to get on their own.
The book is structured in a good flow and provides tabular comparisons of concepts, explains Japanese concepts well, and even has diagrams of the exercises for building movement every day. Another beautiful feature of the book is how it brings together the concept by connecting it with other related fields, like psychology, medication, and research, to name a few.
For those interested in the art of ikigai, many references and quotes are presented by philosophers, monks etc., that can help build on the knowledge and take a deeper dive. The book is an easy read; the language is simple too.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.Epictetus
Ikigai – Negatives of the book ?
While the book is titled ikigai and meant to unpack it, a big chunk of the book focuses on anti-aging. Some contradictory concepts were mentioned, which may confuse the reader. It caters to an audience that wants to live a purposeful life but also wants to live for a longer time.
While death is inevitable, and one can build a lifestyle that doesn’t overwork the physical body and result in faster aging, it’s a little difficult to grasp that just the lifestyle of the Okinawans has led to a longer life for them.
I would have preferred more exploration of ikigai and how to find it in a step-by-step manner. The anti-aging and physical health chapters with exercises were useful, but more on figuring out the ikigai itself would have been helpful. Considering the book is small, a full chapter on that could easily be accommodated without burdening the reader.
Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles have done a great job bringing the Japanese concept into the world. It is incredibly beneficial not just in terms of knowledge, but in the application. The book is a must-read for those who are interested in discovering the purpose of their lives or are confused but don’t want a heavy read.
Even youngsters can read this book and apply some of the concepts to their lives to improve certain aspects of their lifestyles. While the book is small and compact to carry around, it misses the practical element of how one can discover their ikigai.
A dedicated chapter on that with a step-by-step guide would bring the book to another level. Having some knowledge or interest in psychology and philosophy would build the book’s value for the reader. All in all, it’s a must-read, and one can take whatever they can implement and improve their life.
Uncover the meaning of Ikigai & find the flow to your life that makes it fulfilling while increasing your life-span.
About the Authors ✍️
Hector Garica is a citizen of Japan; he was a software engineer before he moved to Japan. Garcia has written another bestseller called A Greek in Japan; he has also written other books about Japanese culture. Francesc Miralles is an award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Love in Small Letters and Wabi-Sabi.
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