Ikigai - Book Review
Updated: Feb 26
As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life. About the Book: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles was published in 2016. Essentially, Ikigai, as defined by the authors is "the happiness of always being busy," "reason for being," or "reason to be"; and finding this Ikigai requires a patient search.
A good portion of this book revolves around the wisdom and life practices of the people in Okinawa, an island with the most centenarians in the world. Ikigai plays an integral part in the longevity of those on the island. More specifically, in addition to Ikigai, the keys to longevity also include diet and exercise. With that said, the book is a relatively short read, and gets straight to the point.
Interestingly, in contrast to many popular beliefs on the meaning of life; according to the book, we don't create our purpose, rather we discover it. The book challenges us to ask these questions in order to discover our Ikigai: - What makes us enjoy doing something so much that we forget about whatever worries we might have while we do it? - When are we happiest? When we can answer these, we can then find a state of "flow" and seven strategies are provided on how to find your "flow." It is noted by the authors that the happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most, but rather the ones who spend the most time in a state of flow. However, one should question, is flow really enough to be happy? For example, does binge-watching TV or playing video games make you happy and forget whatever worries we might have? Perhaps temporarily, but in the long run, most don't look back on their life and feel fulfillment from binge watching Game of Thrones or getting the +1 armor in an MMORPG after months of raids. Yet, both of these seem to meet the definition and requirements for achieving a state of flow. As such, discovering your reason for being, you Ikigai, may require something above and beyond flow. The book goes on to outline the keys to longevity which include food intake and exercise. Here the book outlines 15 foods that are considered keys to the Okinawan vitality. After this information is presented, various exercise routines e.g. Tai Chi are recommended. Two other interesting concepts outlined in the book are: "Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that shows us the beauty of the fleeting, changeable, and imperfect nature of the world around us. Instead of searching for beauty in perfection, we should look for it in things that are flawed, incomplete. A complementary Japanese concept is that of ichi-go ichi-e, which could be translated as “This moment exists only now and won’t come again.” Finally, the book ends noting that: "Once you discover your ikigai, pursuing it and nurturing it every day will bring meaning to your life. The moment your life has this purpose, you will achieve a happy state of flow in all you do, like the calligrapher at his canvas or the chef who, after half a century, still prepares sushi for his patrons with love."
Other great quotes from the book:
That grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. - Washington Burnap We rate the book the following: Overall - 6 Meaning of Life Relevance - 6 Uniqueness – 7 What did we miss? Without an afterlife, can there still be meaning in life?