Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life (Lessons + Book Review)

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life (Lessons + Book Review)

Okinawans have been living a health-rich life for years. In this age of processed food, they live up to 100 years and more. What's their secret? Let's debunk that.

Keyur Kumbhare
Keyur Kumbhare
12 min read

What makes a good life?

How much money do I need to be happy?

How long will I live?

Such questions might have bothered you at some point in your life. There’s one word to answer all your questions.

Ikigai.

In this post, I am going to brief you about the big SECRET that makes a happy, long, and enriching life. After reading this post, you will be able to

  • Find your passion
  • Live your passion to the fullest
  • Appreciate happiness in little things
  • Be in the Productive Mindset
  • Live a Long Life

What is Ikigai?

The word ‘Ikigai‘ (Japanese: 生きがい) means the reason for being. It is your purpose of life, your reason for getting up in the morning, and your strength for constantly pursuing the things that you love. Your ikigai is your passion which when pursued brings you immense joy and satisfaction that no amount of money or other material possessions can match.

Origins of Ikigai

Most part of the book Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life is based in the Japanese Island of Okinawa, where Ikigai originated. It is not shocking to know that the place has the most number of centenarians (people older than 100 years) in the world.

The city is not only known for its longevity. The people in Okinawa suffer from fewer health problems which are otherwise common such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.

Apart from the healthy diet, simple life in the outdoors, green tea & the sub-tropical climate, it is the ikigai that shapes their lives into fulfilling ones thus giving them longevity.

How to Find your Ikigai?

Ikigai can be briefly stated as the intersection of your passion, mission, vocation, & profession.

Here are the exact steps you need to take to find your Ikigai:

Step #1: Finding What You Love

You might have tried several things and chances are you have already found what you love.

But what if I have not?

Explore.

Try out as many things as you can. Get your hands dirty on every single thing that you can think of. Make a list of things that fascinate you.

Take a good amount of time exploring things. You can even stretch this activity for several months until you have an exhaustive list of items to choose from.

Step #2: Finding What You Are Good At

Now that you have given a good amount of time on each activity that you listed, strike out the ones that you are bad at.

Sometimes there might be activities that you are not so good at but it fascinates you to an extent that you will do anything it takes to learn it well. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to pursue it.

You don’t need to have only one ikigai. In fact, having multiple ikigai is a plus. (More on this in the next point)

I was always a coding guy but I stumbled upon Content Writing a few years back. I was not so good back then but I decided to work on it. Today, I work with businesses to help them rank on the first page of Google Search.

After this activity, you’ll be left with a list of items that you not only love but also are good at or want to be good at.

Step #3: Finding What You Can Be Paid For

Knowing if you can be paid for what you are good at and enjoy doing is also important.

If you enjoy watching movies, no one will pay you for that unless you are a movie critic.

There might be a lot of things on your list but only a few of them are probably worth executing.

At this stage, it is time for you to strike off the items which cannot earn you money or make a living for you.

With just a few items on your list, move to the next and the final step.

Step #4: Finding What The World Needs

After you are done shortlisting the items and finding out the things you want to pursue that are commercially viable, it is time to make the final prioritization.

Out of the ideas, find out which ones the people around you need the most. Please note that this need not be a revolutionary idea. It can be as simple as starting a blog or opening an eCommerce store.

Personally, I would suggest taking up one of the ideas and when it starts making money, moving on to the other. Eventually, as you keep building multiple income streams, you will be happier than ever before doing the things that you love and also making an impact on the world.

With that said, here are 10 rules that'll help you throughout your journey towards a fulfilling life:

10 Rules for a Long Life

1. Don’t Retire

The idea of retirement is often seen in the wrong way. It is so due to most people choosing the wrong job just because there’s more money in it.

Instead of taking up a job that you certainly don’t like and working as a machine until you turn 60, pursue what you are truly passionate about. Using the methods above, figure out what you want to focus your energy on and keep exploring.

If you do something that you don’t enjoy, it will take up most of your life and when you finally retire, you won’t have any energy left to live fully.

And the worst part? You won’t be able to go back in time.

Before it gets too late, start exploring and find what your ikigai is and pursue it with passion and enthusiasm.

If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. – Marc Anthony

After all, your ikigai is what you are alive for.

2. Don’t hurry

This point may seem misguiding as being productive often involves getting things done quickly.

Let me explain.

There’s always a minimum amount of time that needs to be devoted in order to produce quality work.

Let’s take this article for instance. As a Productivity Enthusiast, I could easily write this article in under an hour if I had to just pen down the immediate thoughts I had on my mind.

If I did that, the quality would be very poor and you would not have made it this far. Even though I had to do it in the least time possible, I had to make sure the quality is top-notch so that it is worth reading.

You might have seen the interviews of some of the busiest people on the planet. When you watch them talk, they are never in a rush. They manage their time well and limit it for each activity, yet they are never in a hurry.

Whatever your job involves, make sure you give sufficient time to it so that you produce extraordinary work.

3. Follow the 80 per cent rule

Hara Hachi Bu.

It means to fill up your belly until it reaches 80% of its capacity. It is obvious that we cannot practically measure the current status and know when it is EXACTLY 80% full.

The idea here is to stop when you are about to be full.

But why do I keep myself starving?

When you are only 80% full, your stomach has an extra 20% space which allows it to digest the food quickly. This not only improves the digestive system but also helps avoid obesity, acid reflux, gastrointestinal problems, and metabolic disorders.

This diet helps you extend your life by decreasing the chances of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and other old age problems.

By following ‘Hara Hachi Bu’, you not only get a long life but also the same kind of activeness who have currently.

4. Make good friends

Moai. (A social group of friends)

Here’s a surprising fact,

According to a study conducted, people who have more friends tend to outlive those who have fewer by 22%.

These friends are REAL friends, whom you can share your joys and sorrows with and not Facebook friends. The number of quality and resourceful friends you have determine the longevity of your friends.

All of us experience happiness, rewards, challenges, & setbacks. While it is true that you have to learn to fight your battle alone, having someone by your side makes things easier.

Moai is how the Okinawans practice this. Right from their childhood, kids are put in groups of 5 where they spend their time doing most of the activities together like a family.

If you are reading this, chances are you don’t live on an island and living with a group doing activities together might not be the thing for you. And that’s okay.

The takeaway here is to spend time with people that bring value to your life and eliminate the fake ones.

5. Exercise

Does it mean that you ABSOLUTELY have to hit the gym every single day?

No.

In the past few years, our lifestyle has evolved in such a way that we spend most of our day working on a desk, lying on the couch watching TV, and then using social media until 3 am in the morning when our eyes beg to be closed.

In the morning, we get up just 15 minutes before work when we rush to take a shower, get ready and finally reach our office 15 minutes later than we are supposed too, as usual.

And this cycle repeats. On and on and on, until it deteriorates our body inviting several health problems in the future.

Is there a way out?

Move more often.

For those who complain of not having time to exercise, you can make a couple of lifestyle changes to get into a better shape.

  • Limit your social media time
  • Sleep Early
  • Rise early to take a morning walk
  • Take the stairs
  • Walk/Cycle to work

It is the willingness to be better that initiates the journey of your growth.

6. Smile

Life throws a lot of problems at us. There are times when we cannot seem to handle stress. We fear the consequences we may have to face.

A little stress is always good because it is what makes us responsible and willing to do good work. Without stress, there is little to no progress.

As important as stress is in order to progress, it is equally important to keep it under control.

If it gets out of control, it brings fear, anxiety and other negative emotions that make us worry more.

One good way is to focus on mastering the process and not worrying about the end result. This is easier said than done.

Have an important exam?

Focus on studying in the best possible way without worrying about what the end result will be.

Have a Job Interview?

Make sure you revise the concepts instead of worrying about what you’ll do if you don’t get selected.

Smile more often. When you smile, you automatically get positive vibes making you more confident in whatever you are about to pursue.

Every now and then, in this extremely busy world, pause for a moment and just smile.

7. Embrace the Nature

In the past decades, we have seen a lot of technological advancements, especially in the social media and smartphone industry. The question we need to ponder upon is,

Has it done more bad than good?

Apple launched it’s first iPhone on 29 June 2007. This was one of the most remarkable days in history. It opened opportunities for Android phones and today, we cannot even imagine being away from our phone even for an hour. More than a necessity, it has become an addiction.

When we have nothing to do, we open Instagram or Twitter and start scrolling mindlessly making ourselves vulnerable to whatever is shown on our feed.

When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we do is check for notifications we missed while we were asleep.

This smartphone addiction is not only wasting a lot of our precious time but also draining our energy, making us lazy & also hampering our sleep quality. Ask yourself,

Is it really worth it?

The temporary satisfaction we give ourselves when our phone beeps from notification is harming us in the long run by interrupting us a countless number of times in a day.

There was a life before smartphones and though I am not asking you to get rid of the smartphone completely, it is time that you reduce its use acknowledging that it is just a device which traps us into a virtual world helping us temporarily escape from the real-world problems.

Read a book, learn to cook delicious dishes, spend time with your loved ones, go on an adventure trip, and embrace the world we live in. When you start doing this, you will like the real world far more than the virtual one.

8. Practice Gratitude

Why?

Because if you are reading this, you are more fortunate than a lot of people on the planet.

You have two options:

  1. You can complain about how miserable your life is and how Bob owns the stuff that you cannot afford to buy. Screw Bob.
  2. You can be grateful for the opportunities, people, and things that you already have in your life.

Clearly, the second option gives you happiness & peace of mind.

Then why do people always complain?

Let us understand with the help of a story.

On a road, close to the edges, a man roughly in his 30s was heading home on his bicycle after a long day of labouring at one of the construction sites. He sees a man riding a motorcycle who was again returning home from his daily job at a private company. The man on the bicycle thinks to himself,

How unfortunate I am, I wish I had a comfortable life like him.

The man on the motorcycle notices a Mercedes passing by. He sees a man in the car working on his laptop while having a cup of coffee and having control of the temperature unlike him who was all sweaty. He thinks to himself,

How unfortunate I am, I wish I had a comfortable life like him.

The man in his Mercedes looks out for a moment, giving his eyes a break from the presentation he is polishing up in order to deliver it to one of his overseas clients at midnight. He sees a helicopter in the sky. He recalls that one of the popular actors in Hollywood was going to arrive in the city for a film shoot. Stressing about his presentation, he thinks to himself,

How unfortunate I am, I wish I had a comfortable life like him.

The actor sitting in the helicopter, gets his binoculars and takes a look around and notices the labourer on his motorcycle heading home to spend some quality time with his family. He thinks to himself,

How unfortunate I am, I wish I had the freedom like him.

Now, the whole point of narrating this story was no matter what level you are at, you either have a choice to complain of the things you cannot have or be grateful of the things you already have.

There is no better life in the absolute sense. Even the wealthiest people on the planet have their own set of problems.

Respect what you have because it might be a dream for someone else.

9. Live in the Present

How often do you dwell in the thoughts of the past?

How often do you worry about the future?

And… How often do you live in the present?

A lot of the times our mind either likes to dwell in the past, worrying about the wrong decisions we made & feeling good about the happy moments we lived or in getting excited, or worrying about the future.

Regret is Poison – Gary Vaynerchuk

The sooner you get this in your subconscious mind, the better it is for you. Every time you regret the decisions you made in the past, you are wasting your PRESENT time and emotional energy into something that cannot be changed.

If you made a decision that led you to a path you did not want to take, change that by transforming your actions, instead of wishing you’d made the right choice earlier.

The moment you realize you made the wrong choice, you have the power to fix that right at that moment.

Leave the past behind.

But, at the same time, don’t get too excited or worried about the future.

Surely the future is in your hands and you can certainly make your way towards the life you want to live. There’s one problem.

Excitement and anxiety can get into your way.

Many people decide to go through the journey towards pursuing their passion. Out of those who decide, very few of them start their journey.

What’s surprising is, out of those who started, a handful of them continue to persevere and live their passion.

What stops the rest?

They fall prey to the anxiety or excitement, and in some cases, both. They get excited imagining the kind of life they will have once they reach a particular level. They are more interested in the end reward than the actual process. Some get anxious and question themselves whether they will be able to live their passion or fail at life.

Both excitement and anxiety stop them from doing the work in the PRESENT.

Don’t be like the rest.

10. Follow your Ikigai

It is our ikigai that gives meaning to our life. We all can get away from miserable lives & live the kind of life we dreamt of.

All it takes is the courage to stand up, explore and attempt to find your ikigai. Once you do, hustle, fight and make your way towards your destiny.

I have found my ikigai. It’s your time now.

Get up, Explore, Hustle, and Live a Life Worth Remembering!


What are you waiting for?

Get your hands on the book by Hector Garcia which covers the topic in depth.

Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life: Amazon.in: García, Héctor, Miralles, Francesc: Books
Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life: Amazon.in: García, Héctor, Miralles, Francesc: Books
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Hi! I'm Keyur. I hope this article was helpful to you and you enjoyed reading it. I also deliver short pills of knowledge and lessons. If you'd like to get one every Sunday for free, you can subscribe here and I'll send them your way.

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