📖 Ikigai

August 01, 2020



Hey guys!

Gonna share some notes I made while reading a book on Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia Puigcerver.

Ikigai
translated loosely as 'the happiness of always being busy', your reason for getting up in the morning.


  • In Japan, having a purpose in life is so important that the idea of retirement simply doesn't exist. (Dan Buettner, National Geography reporter)
    Maybe that is why the members of Terrace House always talk about their life goals.
  • Ikigai leads to a longer, more satisfying life. 
  • Ikigai as 'flow', or the 'optimum state'.
  • Easy - Boredom , Challenging - Flow, Beyond our Abilities - Anxiety
  • This chart:

Personally I found it quite difficult to place the things I do inside this chart. Give it a try! Been thinking about it, and to answer 'what the world needs' can be rather tricky. 

The easy answer is, for example, people with useful skills like... a doctor, who will also fulfil the centre, achieving Ikigai as he gets paid and if he is passionate about his job.

A more PR-like way to answer the question would be: the world needs every type of person. Diversity is important to survival. So as much as we need healthcare professionals, we also need artists. Everyone plays a role in the eco-system. (But doubt eats me. Thinking back to the essential workers article during the circuit breaker now.)


Guiding Questions to find your Ikigai:

  1. What activities drive you to flow?
  2. What do the activities that drive you to flow have in common?
  3. Are these activities you most like doing something you practice alone or with others?
  4. Do you flow more when doing things that require your body to move, or just to think?
I tried this exercise and here are my responses.


  • What activities drive you to flow? 
    Practising music, such as violin or drums that require a lot of concentration. Kneading bread.
  • What do the activities that drive you to flow have in common? 
    Some kind of body-brain coordination, sometimes something physically repetitive.
  • Are these activities you most like doing something you practice alone or with others?
    I like to do these activities alone. I tend to be distracted by people because when they are around I badly want to engage them and talk to them.
  • Do you flow more when doing things that require your body to move, or just to think?
    See answer to question 2. A coordination of mind and body.

    Based on my answers, perhaps some new hobbies I can try out are:

    • Video gaming! To be able to move freely on the screen via joy stick or keyboard.
    Any suggestions, guys?

    Other concepts in the book.

    Logotherapy, a type of psychology

    One of the first questions Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, asks his patients was "Why do you not committ suicide?" Usually the patient found good reasons not to, and was able to carry on. Logotherapy helps you find reasons to live.


    Morita therapy

    • teaches patients to accept their emotions without trying to control them, since their feelings will change as a result of their actions.
    • Emotions as weather, we cannot predict or control them, but we can observe them.
    • Morita's original treatment, lasting fifteen to twenty-one days, includes isolation and rest, and doing repetitive tasks in silence. The goal is to observe himself and his emotions before re-entering life with a new sense of purpose, without being controlled by social and emotional pressures.
    Maybe some of you can benefit from this little tidbit of advice...

    Quotes I enjoyed:

    • "A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future." - Albert Einstein
    • "Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die."

    What I didn't like about the book:
    The book raises a lot of examples about longevity, though I was expecting more about Ikigai. For example, there are tips about diet, communal living, and exercise more for longevity and health rather than Ikigai, which I understood more as 'a reason for living'. I found the central theme of the book to be more about longevity and how it is achieved through various methods, rather than Ikigai per se. Ikigai sometimes seems to be tacked on.

    Hmm. I found the book rather unsatisfying for this reason.

    My Questions:
    • In the book, there was an example about Bill Gates enjoying the act of washing dishes. It is described as microflow. I wonder if this pocket of time is a privilege in itself. Surely it is difficult to live a slow life or savour small microflow moments if your life is hectic and out of control? Yes, these people may need to slow down, but is a slow lifestyle a privilege some people just cannot afford? 
    • Regarding longevity: It is said that most of these Japanese seniors who were surveyed all had a small garden. In in a space starved country where most of us live in buildings, personal gardens and plots are hard to come by. Guess we just have to make do with small pots in our homes! XD
    • It seems like the key to longevity sometimes include a big condition - you should be unhurried and not be stressed. Ideally you have no pressing financial burdens as well and are free to pursue a slow life. Can millennial in Singapore then achieve longevity? I wonder.
    Till next time!
    Skye

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