Life is a journey of moments. Be it happy or sad, one should accept it. Learning form life experiences make us better and help us in our day to day activities. Adding values to our life cannot be a one-time activity and so is the personal development. There are many books on personal development, but the book which I am covering here is little different. Life without a purpose has no meaning and the book, IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret to Long and Happy Life, emphasizes this a lot apart form living in present. Before going into the depth of the book, it’s important to be aware some aspects in order to understand the book properly which is given below.
The Background: As per WHO, Japan has highest life expectancy in the world. Also, Japan has highest ratio of centenarians in the world: more than 520 for every million (as of September 2016). IKIGAI is a Japanese concept meaning “the happiness of always being busy”. The book brings the lifestyle of an island namely Okinawa, in Japan. Okinawa, where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 100,000 inhabitants, far more than global average. Going further, Ogimi, a rural town of the island having a population of 3000, has the highest life expectancy in the world. This is the reason behind Ogimi to be called as “Village of Longevity”. Not only they live longer but also suffer from fewer chronic diseases like Cancer and heart diseases, inflammatory disorders are also less common. Having highest life expectancy and highest number of centenarians in the world and it’s a blissful experience to know about the lifestyle of people living in Okinawa. The book covers the same.
About the Authors
IKIGAI- The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. The book published in 2017 is an International Bestseller.
Hector Garcia: Born in 1981 in Spain, Héctor García is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade. He is the author of several books about Japanese culture, including two worldwide bestsellers, A Geek in Japan and Ikigai. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan.
Francesc Miralles: Born in 1968, Fransecs Miralles is a Spanish writer, essayist, translator and musician. He is an award-winning and internationally bestselling author of books about how to live well, together with the novels Love in Small Letters and Wabi-Sabi.
About the Book
The book provides an energetic rhythm towards life and does motivates to be positive. The book tries to make readers to identify their IKIGAI. Fast moving life has made life a race and in turn we forget to be happy and hence welcoming toxic thoughts. The book is full of positive vibes. Based on the lifestyle of people living in Okinawa, the book covers Secrets of being happy and living long, antiaging, staying young while growing old, IKIGAI diet, being resilient etc.
The book stresses a lot on having clear purpose in life, living in the present, doing exercises/yoga etc. Diet plays an important role in staying heathy and “Okinawa Diet” is well discussed across the globe. In fact, the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease in Okinawa is the lowest in Japan and diet plays a major role apart from doing exercise/yoga. There are separate chapters dedicated for diet and exercised promoting health and longevity. They eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, rarely eat sugar, consumes natural antioxidants etc. The book briefly covers wide exercises including yoga, which originates from India.
The book talks to the point without stretching. The first chapter itself starts with “The art of staying young while growing old”, provides an everlasting impact which build a rhythm of reading rest of the book. According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search”. In Okinawa, people don’t retire as having a purpose in life is so important in Japanese culture that the idea of retirement simply doesn’t exist there. There is a brief discussion about the five Blue Zones identified and analyzed by Dan Buettner in his book “The Blue zones” and Okinawa holds first place.
Stress is one of the most common problems in today’s fast-moving life. The negative effects of stressful life is well known and the book discuss the same. As stress has degenerative effect over time, it is one of the major elements which kills longevity and happiness. However, looking at the other side, the authors clearly suggests taking little stress is good. Intense stress is dangerous while low level if stress is beneficial.
As mentioned previously, the book focuses on having a purpose in life. A separate chapter is dedicated for having a purpose in life. There is a fruitful discussion of life with/without a purpose. Having a purpose gives meaning to life which provides energy to achieve it which in turn keeps us busy. The book covers logotherapy and psychoanalysis and their differences which are ways to identify purpose in life. Having purpose in life eliminates existential frustration and existential crisis. Existential frustration arises when our life is without purpose. Existential crisis 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. They 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. It can even lead to suicide. One should discover meaning of their life rather than creating it.
In the book, there is an interesting discussion about multitasking and concentrating on single task, flow and distraction. One should have a flow in life which comes with a clear objective or else vague objective gives confusion. Many people are multitasker today and those who aren’t, try to be a multitasker. According to the authors, multitasking reduces productivity, IQ and creativity whereas concentrating on single task increases the same. One interesting suggestion provided by authors is to go for ‘Technological fasting’ at least once in a week. Technological fasting refers to staying away from whats app, facebook, internet etc. When you have a clear objective and flow, hours pass smoothly with mind focussed on your work which you enjoy. These are substantiated with several examples.
One of the most interesting part of the book is it bring brief story about those who are supercentenarians- people who lived 110 years or above. There is a dedicated chapter which covers their lifestyle. Jeanne Calment (1875 – 1997) is the oldest person of verified age history, who lived for 122 years. Isn’t it interesting to know their stories who are supercentenarians?
The book not only covers the diet, exercises, antiaging, stress and its consequences etc but also brings about the various culture of Okinawa and how they had maintained a proper balance between culture and technology.
One of the motivating factors the book suggests is to be resilient. Resilience is our ability to deal with the setbacks. Resilient people know to stay focusses. The reason behind one should be resilient enough is to concentrate on the things one can control and not worrying about those one can’t. Meditation helps a lot in becoming resilient and focused. Worrying about things that are beyond our control achieves nothing. We should have a clear sense of what we can change and what we can’t. Most of the problems in life occurs not because of things that happens but how we react. As life is impermanence, live in the present as present is the only thing we can control and feel. The book is a blissful read with eye opening materials bringing optimism and eliminating pessimism.
The book concludes with an epilogue which provided 10 rules of IKIGAI and the first being stay active; don’t retire, apart from live in the moment, reconnect with nature; to name a few.
Some of the main reasons why one should read this book is of course the longevity factor, happiness etc but there is one more reason I found is mentioned below which is an extract from the book itself.
Okinawa is one of the areas in Japan that were most affected by World War II. As a result, not only of conflicts on the battlefield but also of hunger and a lack of resources once the war ended, the average life expectancy was not very high during the 1940s and 1950s. As Okinawans recovered from the destruction, however, they came to be some of the country’s longest living citizens.
Isn’t it interesting to know about the lifestyle of such a place which was once affected badly by World War II? Lack of resources and hunger, the life expectancy was not high that time but looking today, it has achieved the highest life expectancy in the world with the greatest number of centenarians and supercentenarians.
Please share your opinions on this review post. 🙂
– Ashish Kumar