Ikigai: The Art of Staying Young While Growing Old

At the start of the lockdown last year I had read this book which helped me in many ways. I thought I’d share a few things that inspired me.

The Japanese term “Ikigai” or the “art of living” refers to the practice of living a purposeful life with respect to a person’s sense of the self. Now you’ll ask why do we look to the Japanese for advice on a long and happy life.

Japan has the highest centenarians per capita, that is, the highest ratio of people that are over 100 years old as a percentage of its population. Within Japan, the island of Okinawa, also known as The Land of Immortals, has the highest rate of centenarians per capita. Okinawa also holds the global immortality title as it has the highest occurrence of centenarians in the world

These stats make it pretty obvious that the Japanese are doing something right. Let’s take a look at the ten point compressed rule of Ikigai

  1. Stay active, don’t retire
  2. Take it slow
  3. Don’t fill your stomach ~ Hara hachi bun me
  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. Find and follow your Ikigai

The concept of ikigai as a purpose in life with both personal and social dimensions is captured by the well-known ikigai diagram. This diagram includes overlapping spheres covering:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for
Adapted from PositivePsychology.com’s Toolkit, 2020

At the intersection of what you love and what you are good at is your passion.

At the intersection of what you love and what the world needs is your mission.

At the intersection of what the world needs and what you can get paid for is your vocation.

At the intersection of what you are good at and what you can get paid for is your profession.

To summarise, your Ikigai is something you are very passionate about, that you are also good at, that the world needs now, and for which someone will pay you.

Can someone really retire if he is passionate about what he does?

Hector Garcia Puigcerver

You will never see an Okinawans, even the centenarians, spend time relaxing in a rocking chair. Instead, they take advantage of fresh air and sunshine by engaging in outdoor activities like gardening, yoga, dancing, tai chi, and walking. Retirement simply isn’t part of their vocabulary because they love what they do.

As we see among elderly Okinawans, living in the spirit of ikigai means living a life that embraces movement, acceptance, mindfulness, health, community, and purpose, with longevity representing the outcome of these qualities.

Fortunately, since we know the reasons underlying ikigai, each of us has the potential to find our ikigai. And, even if you aren’t sure of your life’s purpose, don’t despair. Your purpose is out there.

PS: Here is a link to the book on Amazon

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