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Ikigai

11 mins read

Ikigai – a Japanese way of life which encompasses ideas like: what we love to do, what we’re good at, and what the world actually needs. The place where they intersect is our ikigai – translated roughly as “our reason for being.” It is something you do, that brings you joy, it’s using your skills and talents and it makes you happy while performing it.

Written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the title of the book made me curious enough to read it and know more about this new word. The authors traveled to the island of Okinawa to meet a group of extraordinary people. Their life expectancy is way higher than any other place on Earth. In Okinawa, there are more than 20 inhabitants of age more 100 years.

The book is a beautiful little read about the simple ways of life and the peace of mind. About happiness, appreciation and connecting with nature. If you are looking for some great revelation after reading this little book, then just know… it’s not happening. It’s only meant to slow you down, rethink, focus, and live a long happy life.

The 10 laws of Ikigai are an important element of this book. Each one of these laws has explanations and examples in a separate chapter:

  1. Stay active, dont retire
  2. Take it slow.
  3. Fill your belly to 80%.
  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. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future.
  10. Follow your Ikigai, your passion, your purpose.

Some Thought Provoking Life Lessons

  1. A wise person should not ignore life’s pleasures, but should always remain conscious of how easy it is to be enslaved by them. You have to be prepared for those pleasures disappearing in no time.
  2. Present is all that exists, and is the only thing that we can control.
  3. Things that we love are like the leaves of a tree. They can fall any moment with a gust of wind. Everything that we have, and everyone we love will disappear at some point. We have to be mindful of this, without being pessimistic about it. It should help us love the present moment and those who surround us in this moment. Keeping this in mind helps helps us avoid excessive pain in times of loss.
  4. There is no perfect strategy to connecting with our Ikigai. Don’t worry too much about finding it. Life is not a problem to be solved. Just be busy with what you love, at the same time being surrounded by people who love you.
  5. We don’t create the meaning of our life, we discover it.
  6. We each have a unique reason for being, which can be adjusted or transformed many times over the years.

Daily Health Habits – Secrets to long life from Super centenarians (110+ age)

Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world. Okinawa has the highest life expectancy in Japan, and it is remarkable considering the fact that it was one of the worst affected provinces after WW II.

  1. Japanese stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full.
  2. Just like exercising for the body is important, exercising for brain is also important. Otherwise, it can stagnate and go out of shape. In fact, the brain needs a lot more stimulation to stay in shape. As you get habitual of things, the brain develops neuronic bridges that can do things automatically for you, just like learning to drive a car. When this happens, it doesn’t need to think anymore, unless it confronts with new information. It is like a person just eating and doing no exercise. That is why it is so important to expose yourself to change, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and feeling anxious. Dealing with new situations, learning something new everyday, playing games, and interacting with others seem to be effective anti aging strategies for mind.
  3. Stress is a proven killer. So, while challenges are good for keeping mind and body active, we should adjust our high stress life styles to avoid premature ageing.
  4. While sustained, intense stress is a known enemy, low levels of intermediate stress have been shown to be beneficial. People who maintained low levels of stress, faced challenges and put their soul into their work lived longer than those who chose a more relaxed lifestyle. Financial freedom gives you an opportunity, not to retire and relax, but to burn yourself in things that you love doing.
  5. Relax. Slow down a little. Eat and Sleep well. Everything is fine. Life is a marathon, not a 100 m sprint.
  6. Keep your mind and body busy.
  7. People with clear purpose never retire and continue in their area of passion till their last breath.
  8. If you want to stay busy (one secret to longevity) when there’s no need to work, there has to be an Ikigai on your horizon, a purpose that guides you throughout your life and pushes you to make things of beauty and utility for the community and yourself.
  9. Smile. Say hello to people.
  10. Work very hard, but on your ikigai. Working hard doesn’t mean you have to take it too seriously. Effort is important, not the result. You have to enjoy what you do.
  11. Spend your morning in your vegetable garden. 100% of interviewed super centenarians kept a vegetable garden.
  12. Do many different things every day. Always stay busy, but do one thing at a time without getting overwhelmed. Not even one of the interviewed person was ever seen doing nothing.
  13. Celebrate little things.
  14. People who live the longest are not the ones who do most exercises but the ones who move the most. Metabolism slows down 90% after 30 minutes of sitting. After 2 hours, good cholesterol drops 20%. Just getting up for 5 minutes is going to get things moving.

Eating Habits of Super centenarians (110+ age)

  1. Eat a bit of everything. Variety is key. Eat a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables
  2. Okinawa people rarely eat sugar, and even if they have to, its cane sugar. No sweets or chocolates.
  3. They have extremely low salt intakes. – less than 10 g of salt per day.
  4. Eat less than you feel the urge for. This saves significant energy consumed in digestion. Even more efficient is the 5:2 diet, means eat regular for 5 days and fast for 2 days. This allows the digestive system some rest as well.
  5. Jasmine tea (green tea with jasmine) or white tea is the best for reducing blood cholesterol levels and fights free radicals.
  6. Eat lot of citrus fruits. They have chemicals which prevent cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Other Interesting Discoveries from the book

  1. Wabi Sabi
    • It is a Japanese concept that shows us the beauty of fleeting, changeable and imperfect nature of the world around us. Beauty can be found in things that are flawed and incomplete. In fact, the Japanese believe that such things resemble the natural world more closely and hence must be valued. It is quite opposite to the western way of thinking which strives for perfection in everything.
  2. Ichi-go ichi-e
    • It is another Japanese concept which can be translated as ‘This moment exists only now and won’t come again’. A deeper understanding and appreciation of every moment can help us lead a happier life.
  3. Anti-fragility
    • Fragile gets weakened when harmed. Resilient or robust resist the shock and stay the same. Anti fragile gets better when harmed. Fighting for financial freedom adds anti fragility to your financial life. By adopting an anti fragile attitude, we start to love setbacks, because each setback is an opportunity to grow. We find a way to get stronger with every blow, staying focused on our ikigai.
  4. Logo therapy
    • This was popularised by Victor Frankl and it essentially is a philosophy which helps you find reasons to live. He believed that everything can be taken from a human but one thing – the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given situation
  5. Flow
    • It is a state in which one is so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable that people would do it for the sheer sake of doing it.
    • To achieve flow:
      • Choose a moderately difficult task,
      • Have a clear objective,
      • Concentrate on a single task at a time.
      • Human brain cannot multi task. We feel we can do so but what is actually happening is that we are switching between many tasks very frequently. This drains energy.

The book isn’t meant to change your life, however, it may very well, it depends on how you take it. It is definitely worth checking out.

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