Ikigai — Book Notes

I read a lot of books and spend some time after the fact digesting them. I’ve decided to start sharing some of my book notes here. I hope you enjoy this first one.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is a worthy read. Written by Héctor García and Frances Miralles, the book looks closely at the people of Okinawa, who live longer than anyone else, and the Japanese concept of ikigai. Ikigai, or at least my understanding of it, is the Japanese notion of one’s purpose in life. It’s a mixture of vocation, passion, and abilities, which I came to think of as the reason to jump out of bed in the morning.

Moreover, you don’t just necessarily have one ikigai or keep the same ikigai throughout your life. It can evolve as you do. The book explains that having a purpose in life is so important in Japanese culture that the western concept of retirement doesn’t exist there.

The authors spent a lot of time talking to very old Okinawans, looking for commonalities and the thing that stood out most was the concept of ikigai. They all had it and embraced it.

The book goes into depth associating the ikigai concept with Japanese culture, exercise, meditation, and mental health. But the book is definitely written for westerners, attempting to translate these concepts and ideas for the western mindset, and it largely succeeds.

The authors explain ten rules of ikigai:

  1. Stay active; don’t retire.

  2. Take it slow.

  3. Don’t fill your stomach.

  4. Surround yourself with good friends.

  5. Get in shape for your next birthday.

  6. Smile.

  7. Reconnect with nature.

  8. Give thanks.

  9. Live in the moment.

  10. Follow your ikigai.

Read as this summarized list, it can feel pretty shallow, but the book adds more depth. At 208 pages, it is a fairly quick read, and I got a lot from it. I particularly enjoyed reading the advice from Japanese centenarians. This book got me thinking about many of my own habits and how well I’m tending to my own ikigai. It also led to some changes in the ways I handle stress. If you’d like to dig deeper on this topic, check out Ikigai.