‘Ikigai’ by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

“Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.”

—Japanese proverb

Héctor García and Francesc Miralles’ Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is a kind of introductory guide to the concept of ikigai, which in the simplest terms can be defined as “the thing that gives you purpose and motivates you in life.” What is it that nourishes your soul? What gets you out of bed each morning?

To better frame the idea, the book’s authors asked some of the longest-lived people on Earth about their secrets to a long and happy existence:

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai—a reason for living. And according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world’s longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. Having a strong sense of ikigai—the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect—means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning. It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire (in fact there’s no word in Japanese that means retire in the sense it does in English): They remain active and work at what they enjoy, because they’ve found a real purpose in life—the happiness of always being busy.

In researching this book, the authors interviewed the residents of the Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds—one of the world’s Blue Zones. Ikigai reveals the secrets to their longevity and happiness: how they eat, how they move, how they work, how they foster collaboration and community, and—their best-kept secret—how they find the ikigai that brings satisfaction to their lives. And it provides practical tools to help you discover your own ikigai. Because who doesn’t want to find happiness in every day?

Your ikigai lies somewhere at the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs from you. You know the adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? That’s ikigai in a nutshell — or at least in part. It’s more of a way of living in its entirety, not just an approach to your career.

Admittedly, the book could stand to go much deeper on this subject than it does, but as introductions go, it’s solid enough to recommend. Treat it as a jumping-off point for further reading, because this is fascinating stuff and you’ll probably want to dive deeper!

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