Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

“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.”


I recently had gone to the bookstore to buy my Dad a birthday present. He shares a huge love of reading, just as I do. But I brought my toddler with me, so it was hard to linger and look in any one section for too long because he wanted to move cars around the store and walk around a lot. It was really sweet, he even picked out a book for my Dad himself. But anyway, I picked up Ikigai and thought it looked like something by Dad might like.

My Dad really enjoys wellness books, and this seemed like an interesting read. But by the time I got home, I was second guessing my purchases. So I figured I’d flip through this book and see if it appeared to be something my Dad would like.

And then I accidentally read the entire book!

This book isn’t the type of book I normally read, just because I unfortunately do not read a lot of non-fiction (I’m trying to read more of it though). But anyway, a lot of this book really clicked with me (though I’ll admit, some of it didn’t). Essentially, this book was about finding your life’s passion and focusing on it in a way that brings joy to your life. For me, my life’s passion is writing, and this gave me a lot of perspective into how this can grow and be perceived.

This book focused on a few different sections, but it took a look at Japan’s Centenarians- people who have lived passed the age of 100 and what they did to live a long, happy life. For a lot of them, there was a focus on their life’s passion. Whether it was creating art or writing, they all managed to live fully by focusing on this passion every single day.

The authors of this book break this concept down further, and I’ve already gifted it to my Dad, so I am relying on memory a bit, but here’s some important concepts I took out of this book.

The first is that to live well, you need to find what makes you happy. For me, it’s writing. So once I start a writing practice, I have to work on it as much as possible and try to achieve success with it, whatever that might mean to me. The authors encouraged people to use their passion as a way to eventually make money, and this is maybe one area where I get a little bit disagreeable. I think it’s important to find a passion that gives you a sense of purpose and goals, but I don’t always think money has to be made. I’m happy writing, and while my eventual goal is publication, I am also prepared for the fact that it may never completely replace my day job. But I think the point was more to pursue your passion in a way that allows you to focus on its flow. The book provided these examples of achieving flow:

  1. Knowing what to do
  2. Knowing how to do it
  3. Knowing how well you are doing
  4. Knowing where to go (where navigation is involved)
  5. Perceiving significant challenges
  6.  Perceiving significant skills
  7.  Being free from distractions

When I reflected on this list, I realized that I had achieved a state of flow in 6 of the 7 areas. But one area that I really found myself failing in was distractions. I am definitely not free from distractions, especially when I sit down at the end of the day to write. This was a hard thing for me to realize. I have the habit of checking my phone or responding to messages when I’m writing that sometimes pull me away from what I’m doing for more than 10 minutes. So last week, after I read this book, I forced myself to put my phone somewhere else while I wrote. I didn’t look at it and just sat down and wrote. I ended up being twice as productive and had one of the best writing weeks I’ve had in ages. Granted, it seems so simple and silly, something I should have realized sooner, but I tend to get caught up in little things and don’t always look at the bigger picture. So sometimes, it’s easy to forget what we’re meant to be doing by all the other little things that tend to distract us in the day. I feel like this book helped me realize the flow that I had lost and what was causing it.

But another thing this book focused on was in taking it slow and not allowing yourself to get stressed out. This seems easier said than done. We have a habit, especially me, of putting end dates on things. I think goals are good to have, but it can cause great stress when we put a date onto a goal and then don’t achieve it for a variety of reasons. I had originally planned to finish my book and have the first draft fully edited by the end of March. I’m not quite there, but there was a lot of other things I needed to work through before I could reach this state of flow in my writing, and now that I’m there, I’m grateful for all the time I have available to me to work on it. Some days, I wish I could spend more time writing, but I know that I will achieve what I have set out to do, even if it takes me longer than I intended. There’s a sense of urgency we always place on our lives that doesn’t need to be there. And if everyone took it out, imagine how much more relaxed life would be?

And then this morning as I was thinking about writing this review and what I wanted to include, I listened to a song that I’ve been listening to constantly lately, ‘fever dream’ by mxmtoon and this section really stuck out to me:

I want something more than
More than restless mornings
Getting by’s so boring
Ah-ooh, ah-ooh
Take your time, enjoy it
Every fleeting moment
Getting by’s so boring
Ah-ooh, ah-ooh

-fever dream

I have listened to this song a lot, and I’ve thought about it a lot of different ways at different points the past few months, but then after reading and thinking about this book, I’ve realized that by focusing on something you love, you’re not just getting by. You’re living life as fully as you possibly can. And the next lines- take your time, enjoy it/every fleeting moment is so important. We are in such a rush all the time, but it’s the process and the journey of getting where we want to that is so important, and those are the moments that are going to bring us to the next goal we set for ourselves. Honestly the more I thought about this book and this song together, the more I realized it’s the act of writing that brings me the greatest joy. I’ve had a few poems published, and as amazing as that feeling has been, it never surpasses the feeling of discovering new characters and writing their stories for the first time.

This book touches on a lot of other topics too. There are some sections on physical wellness- focusing on both movement and eating habits. I’m going to skip over these for now. I agree that exercise is important to feel good but I have a lot of feelings about strict eating habits as I think there can be a lot of balance in how we approach our wellness routines, and it is going to be different for everyone. I see too many people trying to do the same things because they feel it’s what everyone else is doing, when all of our bodies are different and are meant to be different. I’m going to stop myself there before I go on a longer rant.

There were also some sections on community and interacting with people you love. I loved this book a lot, it’s something I got a lot out of, and I am glad I read it when I did. It’s not going to be for everyone, but I did get a lot out of it, and I think books that remind you of your strengths and how to live a less stressful life with more positivity are always good ones to check out!

4 thoughts on “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: