Saturday, February 29, 2020

Book Summary: Ikigai - The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

I truly believe everyone should have reading as one of their habits. It gives us great insights and widens our horizons. Reading takes you places and gives you new ideas. At Makkajai, we have been buying lots of books for office reading. 

We observed that even though we have lots of good books in office, not everyone is reading them or making an effort to read them. To push everyone to read more often, we came-up with a simple idea. Everyone has to write one pager book summary every month! 

It doesn't matter what book you read, it doesn't matter how thick or thin it is. All that matters is that everyone writes a book summary for the book they have read.

Very recently, I had read the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. It goes without saying that, this is a pretty awesome book. To keep up with the tradition, I did write a short book summary this book. Turns my team members liked the summary hence, I decided to convert he book summary into a blog post in the hope that, more and more people will find this book interesting and worth reading.

Book Summary

This books demonstrates various topics related to Art of Living. Its the art of living and not art of existence or survival :). The book defines what is ikigai and the rules of ikigai. In Japanese, ikigai (生き甲斐) is a combination of letters that mean "life" and "to be worthwhile". Authors of the book try to unravel the secrets of long and happy life.

How do they do it? They conducted a total of one hundred interviews in Ogimi, Okinawa - Japan to try to understand the longevity secrets of centenarians and super-centenarians i.e. people who have lived for 100 and 110+ years!

The village of Ogimi in Japan has the most number of centenarians and super-centenarians in the world. Authors talk about various experiences while interviewing centenarians and super-centenarians.

So what did they find? 

Ikigai can be illustrated with this diagram very easily. It’s basically an intersection of “What you are good at”, “What you love”, “What the world needs” and “What you can be paid for”!

  • Ikigai roughly translates into “the happiness of always being busy.” 
  • We all have a certain passion inside us, a thing that we love to do and the thing that keeps us going. A unique talent that gives meaning to our days and drives us to share the best of ourselves until the very end. 
  • If we don’t know what this thing is yet, then our mission is to discover it.
  • Everyone’s ikigai is different, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning. 
  • When we spend our days feeling connected to what is meaningful to us, we live more fully; when we lose the connection, we feel despair. 
  • Our ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us and finding it requires a patient search. 
  • Once we discover our ikigai, pursuing it and nurturing it every day will bring meaning to your life.
  • One thing that everyone with a clearly defined ikigai has in common is that, they pursue their passion no matter what.

What are the rules for Ikigai?
  • Stay active; don’t retire. Keep doing things that you love to do.
  • Take it slow. Don’t be in a hurry all the time. This is one of the most important thing to remember. Live life fully from today, right now, in this moment, do not wait for some obscure time in the future to do it.
  • Eat less. Only about 80% of your hunger. Obviously its not easy to figure out what is 80% of hunger, but the idea is to not fill up your stomach to 100% of its capacity :)
  • Surround yourself with good friends. If you are to live longer, you will need good company when you are old.
  • Get in shape, exercise and regularly move your body. At least try and do mild exercise 3-5 days in a week.
  • Smile and do it often. This is something that we all can do more of.
  • Reconnect with nature. Appreciate its beauty. Grow a garden in your home, go for a trek!
  • Give thanks and mean it.
  • Live in the moment. A lot of times we are either worried about the future or sad about the past. Don’t do it, Live in the moment.

Avoiding Stress & Existential Crisis

Many people seem older than they actually are. Why do you think that happens?
  • Research into the causes of premature ageing has shown that, stress has a lot to do with it.
  • Existential crisis, on the other hand, is typical of modern societies in which people do what they are told to do, or what others do, rather than what they want to do. Peer pressure, makes us do things that we don't really care about.
  • People often try to fill the gap between what is expected of them and what they want for themselves with economic power or physical pleasure, or by numbing their senses
  • Those who give up the things they love doing, lose their purpose in life.

Be in Flow

Flow is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity!
  • We have to focus on increasing the time we spend on activities that bring us to state of flow, rather than allowing ourselves to get caught up in activities that offer immediate pleasure.
  • Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow. Too many times we try to do things in parallel and divide our attention. This is a sure shot recipe for not achieving the state of flow.
  • Our ability to turn routine tasks into moments of micro-flow, into something we enjoy, is key to our being happy.
  • The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.

Slow Living
  • Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, ‘Walk slowly and you’ll go far.’ 
  • When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.
  • There is a huge difference between being in a rush all the time vs keeping yourselves busy with things that you love to do.
  • Never stop doing the things that you love to do!
  • Slow living doesn't mean that we stop being busy, it means we stop being in hurry!
And finally here are a few secrets of centenarians in their own words:

What should we do to live a long and happy life?
  • Don’t worry
  • Cultivate good habits
  • Nurture your friendships every day
  • Live an unhurried life
  • Be optimistic
  • Eat and sleep, and you’ll live a long time. 
  • Learn to relax.
  • Your mind and your body. You keep both busy, you’ll be here a long time.

Overall, I have learned a lot from this book and pretty sure that everyone can learn many things from it. Do read it and let me know how you liked it.
Have some Fun!