Ikigai book cover

Finding your ikigai

I was first Introduced to the Japanese concept of “ikigai” while studying in Tokyo in 2006. It may have shaped me subtly but I missed much of the meaning.

In recent years, this approach to finding a purpose has gotten much Western attention, and I’ve found it much more important to me at this stage of my life. A few years back I wrote down what I feel my ikigai is today and follow it. I recently read the 2016 book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia and found their translation of the concept refreshing.

One of the ways to find ikigai is by following the habits of the so-called “Blue Zones,” which are areas of the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live to be 100 or older). The Blue Zones have certain things in common, such as a diet low in calories and rich in vegetables, a strong sense of purpose and social connections, and regular physical activity.

Another important aspect of ikigai is the idea of “hara hachi bu,” which means eating until you are 80% full. This concept comes from Okinawa, Japan, and is believed to help people live longer, healthier lives.

The book also discusses the importance of mental training and stress management for overall well-being. The American Institute of Stress has found that many health problems are caused by stress, and it’s important to find ways to manage it.

In addition to physical and mental well-being, the book emphasizes the importance of finding flow and living in the present moment. The concept of “flow,” as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, refers to a state of complete immersion in an activity.

Finally, the book discusses the idea of resiliency and anti-fragility, which involve the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity. This is similar to the teachings of Stoicism, a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of accepting what we cannot control and focusing on what we can control.

Overall, “Ikigai” is a clarifying and inspiring book that offers practical advice for finding purpose and living a fulfilling life.

My notes:

  • Blue Zones: diet, exercise, purpose and social networks
  • Hara Hachi bu: eat 80% full
  • Use more plates!
  • Moai social membership financial group
  • Mental training by learning new things
  • American Institute of Stress: most health problems are caused by stress
  • Littler bit of stress helps, gives meaning: Dr Howard Friedman (work is good!)
  • Sitting will kill you: sedentary lifestyles are dangerous
  • Models sleep for better skin, we should too
  • Logotherapy has similarities to what Ikigai teaches
  • Viktor Frankl would ask: why don’t you commit suicide?
  • Nietzsche: “He has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

My first pass at their ikigai framework:

  • What I love: learning and sharing
  • What the world needs: trusted and balanced guides
  • What can I be paid for: journalism; books, creating and engaging like-minded community
  • What am I good at: relationships, intellectual honesty ; reading; writing; working


  • In the West: our thoughts shape our actions; in East, our actions shape our thoughts
  • Morita: Focusing on a painful incident is like the donkey tied to a pole that keeps walking in circles around it. He only becomes more entwined
  • Emotions are like weather. We don’t fight them, we adapt to them. Monk Thích Nh?t H?nh: “ hello solitude. How are you today? Come, sit with me and I will care for you.”
  • Bruce Lee: Be water, my friend
  • Flow State research Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Hemingway: “Sometimes I write better then I can”
  • Joi Ito: “compass over maps” for guiding work
  • Einstein: “a happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future”
  • We aren’t multitasking; we are rapidly switching between tasks
  • Clifford Ivar Nass: epidemic of multitasking
  • Ganbaru is “toughing it out” in Japanese
  • Microflow: excellent in small acts. Bill Gates still washes the dishes
  • Richard Feynman: you have a Nobel laureate painting walls
  • Meditation begins by acknowledging thoughts and letting them go away. Just one of 60k thoughts we have everyday
  • Rituals over goals
  • “The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow” (86)
  • Common acts of village of longevity: gardening and friends and good habits and games and green /jasmine/white tea and socializing and low stress and exercise and good diet and water and good sleep and optimism and many celebrations with dance and singing and ikigai and proud of traditions and culture which they maintain and always busy with a plan
  • Rush too much and you’ll get to the end of life to soon
  • Okinawa diet: eat the rainbow. Less salt and sugar, fish three times a week
  • Low calorie diets consistent in all Blue zones. Okinawa eat on average 1785 calories daily, compared to 2k in Japan and 2250 in United States
  • Hara hachu bu: end each meal still feeling a little hungry
  • Zazen Youjinki in 12the century said to consume 2/3 of what you might want
  • 5:2 fasting (consume less than 500 calories two days a week)
  • Blue Zones: longest living people don’t do the list exercise “but rather the ones who move the most”
  • Metabolism slows down after just 30 minutes of siting. Even 5 minutes of activity help
  • Radio taiso , yoga, walking, sun salutation
  • Ten books on the cultivation of perfection
  • Resiliency and anti fragility are modern terms for pursuit of ikigai : as the Japanese proverb says “fall seven times, rise eight.”
  • Buddha lesson: you don’t need to throw away wealth and pleasure but just be aware of them
  • Stoics: what’s the worst thing that can happen (negative visualization); knowing what we can control and what we can’t
  • Epictetus: “ it’s not what happens to you but how you react that matters.”
  • Thích Nh?t H?nh: “ The only moment in which you can be truly alive is the present moment.”
  • Marcus Aurrrelius said the things we love are like the leaves of a tree, they can fall at any moment with a gust of wind
  • Seneca wrote “All things human are short-lived and perishable”
  • Wabi-sabi (beauty of impermanence) and Ichi-go inchi -e (moments don’t last so celebrate them)
  • Japanese wood structures understood things would be rebuilt but European built stone to last forever (wabi sabi)
  • Nassim Nicholas Talen coined anti fragility to describe that which gets stronger when harmed) like Hydra vs Hercules and to contrast fragile and resilient
  • Antifragile: redundancies, small risks in what’s next ; remove what makes you fragile
  • “Life is not a problem to be solved”

10 rules of ikigai

  1. stay active, don’t retire
  2. Take it slow
  3. Don’t fill your stomach (80% full)
  4. Surround yourself with good friends
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday
  6. Smile
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Give thanks
  9. Live in the moment
  10. Follow your ikigai: either get it more time or spend your time finding it

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