The authors of Ikigai, Garcia and Miralles interviewed the residents of Ogimi, the Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year olds in the world to find out their secret to a long and happy life. They found that their secret was having an Ikigai or a reason for living. Having a strong sense of ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect means that each day is filled with meaning and life satisfaction.
Finding one’s purpose or the reason to get up for in the morning is finding our Ikigai. Garcia and Miralles suggest that the experience of flow as defined by Csikszentmihalyi can show us our Ikigai. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” The key to flow is always having a meaningful challenge to overcome in order to maintain flow.
One way to find our ikigai is to use flow. In other words, ask yourself what do the activities that drive you to flow have in common? Why do they drive you to flow? Your answers may help you find your ikigai. If not, try spending more time in activities that bring you into flow or try new things that you are curious about which may be similar to the activities that bring you into flow. The more you flow, the closer you will be to your ikigai.
From their interviews with the eldest members of the Ogimi community, Garcia and Miralles found their life philosophy to be:
- Don’t worry
- Cultivate good habits
- Nurture your friendships everyday
- Live an unhurried life
- Be optimistic
As for food, besides a healthy and wide variety diet of grains, fruits and vegetables, they rarely eat sugar. They drink a lot of green tea, They also have a concept called hara hachi bu which is to stop eating when you are about 80% full. They also are highly active.
Ikigai they found, also makes one more resilient. Someone with a clearly defined ikigai pursues their passion no matter what. Resilience is not just about perservering but an outlook cultivated to stay focused on the important things in life rather than what is most urgent, and to keep ourselves from being carried away by negative emotions.
Resilience is about our ability to deal with setbacks. The more resilient we are, the easier it will be to pick ourselves up and get back to what gives meaning to our lives. Resilient people stay focused on their objectives, on what matters, without giving in to discouragement. Their flexibility is their source of their strength, they know how to adapt to change. They focus on the things they can control and don’t worry about what they can’t.
The Japanese concept of wabi-sabu is about not searching for beauty in perfection, but in things that are incomplete and flawed, seeing the opportunity for growth. The Japanese concept of ichi-go ichi-e, is about focusing on the present and enjoying each moment that life brings us and not lose ourselves in worries about the past or the future.
Garcia and Miralles conclude by saying that our Ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing is common in 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.
Modern life estranges us more and more from our true nature, making it easy for us to lead lives lacking in meaning. Power and incentives distract us daily. Our intuition and curiosity are our internal compasses to help us connect with our Ikigai.
Follow the things you enjoy, be led by your curiosity and keep busy doing things that fill you with meaning and happiness. There is no perfect strategy to connecting with our Ikigai. We should not worry too much about finding it. Life is not a problem to be solved. Keep doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.
By way of summary, they distilled ten rules of Ikigai from the long-living residents of Ogimi:
- Stay active; don’t retire
- Take it slow
- Don’t fill your stomach
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape for your next birthday
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks
- Live in the moment
- Follow your Ikigai
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