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What's the fuss over Ikigai?

Samriddhi Mathur
May 16th, 2021 · 4 min read

Pandemic blues or not, this self-help book might end up helping you a lot more (blues might’ve been a very mild word to say here about what people might be feeling).

But, what’s the fuss about Ikigai? What’s this concept about? Why that everyone who reads it can’t stop thinking about it or at least stop talking about it? Here’s one more question from me: if you’re in your teens or 20s or literally any phase of your life and have chilling thoughts about - What’s the one thing that I’m really passionate about? Where should I even start from? While having these questions is perfectly normal, it’s even better when a book has answers to how you might be able to find these answers yourself. It’s about to give you a way or a head start for why to find your ikigai and how some people who have achieved it already are doing it. Then it’s all about- what you feel about and how you interpret it and start implementing it in your own life.

The concept originates from Japan, from where the writers began their journey; eager to know all about it and what all secrets it holds.

Source: National Geographic

Ikigai can mean several things: the flow you get into while working, finding a sense of satisfaction in what you’re doing, something that gives you a sense of purpose, and many more things; The thing the author was most interested in was: If Ikigai was the reason or secret for the longevity in Okinawa island.

They drew their conclusions from the lifestyle of locals; they stayed with them, observed their daily routine. The most contrasting thing (compared to most of the world) the authors found was their belief in never retiring.

The island of most number of centenarians, and has a lot of people living a very long life, found the very simple idea of keeping their mind and body active, regardless of age (obviously), and having a community that supports each other in everything; ‘Food won’t help you live longer,’ says Yuki(owner of a slow restaurant in Ogimi, Japan) ‘The secret is smiling and having a good time’.

We are what we repeatedly do,

Excellence, then, not an act but a habit.

- Aristotle

This quote, in the book, from Aristotle is the essence of one of the many things the authors try to explain; we ought to understand our objective in order to find our way to longevity and happiness.

‘Epidemic of multitasking’ -

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Source: Dribble

The book also explains the importance of just focusing on one single task at a time to achieve a flow in your work and calls the modern-day symbol of efficiency - an epidemic of multitasking. Multitasking divides one’s attention into so many several things that it impedes one’s ability in achieving “The flow”, which is responsible for keeping one focused while giving them the sense of purpose(what a lot of people seek for). So, while for a whole lot of reasons an entire chunk of human-kind has linked multitasking as a good thing and connects it in deciding how hardworking a person is, it is also very important to know that it doesn’t really help with getting into flow, and as you progress further in the book you’ll learn more about stuff that might actually help you ease into finding your flow. One of my favorites is being ritualistic - that helps to put your mind into ‘the flow’ before you even know it.

Importance of simplicity-

Simplicity, mindfulness might be the words you hear a lot; Mindfulness has in fact been used so much by the fitness companies that somewhere it has lost its meaning and has started to become less important in our minds. What is important to know here is the weight of the role ‘mindfulness’ plays in achieving all of that we’ve discussed so far and, the book again mentions a bulk of ways that are going to help you understand the concept better(if not motivating you to start it right away).

After stating and proving the importance of all of these things (and when we think it can’t get better than this), the book continues to go on talking about the authors’ experience during their stay in Okinawa. They were invited to a birthday party where one of the residents told them - The youngest among them is eighty-three. They ended up dancing and having shikuwasa cake; the author says it seemed like the birthday of a twentysomething and, talks about their learning about celebrating together.

Okinawa’s miracle diet -

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Source: Healthline

As we are already aware of the importance of having variety in your lunch is one of the prominent things in Japanese cuisine then, why is there a need to know more and get into Okinawa’s diet? In the age of diet culture, the book has very meaningful insights into the food that these locals eat, the way they procure everything, and how they have small vegetable gardens of their own (which again connects with one of the ways to find your sense of being ).

There are many interviews, conducted by the authors, of people that have already mastered this art and found their ikigai; Those interviews alone could be something that’ll get you out of that couch and work towards finding your ikigai. The major plus (or bonus) we get with all the knowledge is the vivid description of all these places the author talks about. At the beginning of the book, the author says that there exist 5 blue zones; These are the places where they’ve observed most people above the average age of humans and, continues with the description of the serenity of those places that takes you to a much needed mental vacation (or one might call it the kind of vacation you didn’t know you needed) - while the pandemic is still roaring in many parts of the world.

As I said, the book and the concept are some of the things that can be very much in contrast with what we associate “success” with; in our life. All in all, the book might exactly be the kind of thing you’re looking for, regardless of what age group you belong to. All the things mentioned in the book, according to me (and what you interpret yourself), are the things to keep in mind and think about more (maybe start from the body; Keeping in mind that the mind is one of the significant parts of it if not more). This is one of the self-helpy books that basically entails everything from your work, to body and links them with your mind.

Author’s Note:

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