Table of Content

📃 Book Details

Name: Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life
Author: Hector Garcia, Francesc Miralles
Page: 208 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Random House UK
Publishing date: 27 September 2017

🚀 Book wrap-up

Ikigai is a case study of Okinawa’s centenarians, to get down to understanding what attributed to their longevity. The book tries to pen down the secret to their extraordinary life span, which it credits to a Japanese concept called Ikigai.

This book is about grasping the fundamentality of Ikigai and also exploring the Okinawan’s way of life. The book breaks it down into simple action items that anyone can follow.

🎨 Should you read Ikigai?

When you look at it, how to live a long and happy life is something everyone deserves and needs to know. The problem is when you put it down, whatever this book suggests is already common knowledge.

I feel you should read this book if you are in one of these two conditions.

  1. You feel like your life is hallowed and don’t know how to fill it. You feel like your body is not healthy and don’t feel good about it.
  2. If you are very obsessed with your health and your life. Every day you feel like you are doing everything wrong and you can’t do anything about it.

The two extremes where you know nothing and you just know too much should try and read this.

The biggest merit of this book that can appeal to others is its shortness. You can very easily finish this one and get on with your life. So reading this book isn’t a mighty task you should be dying to avoid.

📒 My Book Notes of Ikigai.


The art of staying young while growing old

Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. Our ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search.

Whatever you do, don’t retire!

Having a purpose in life is so important in Japanese culture that our idea of retirement simply doesn’t exist there.

The island of (almost) eternal youth

Certain longevity studies suggest that a strong sense of community and a clearly defined ikigai are just as important as the famously healthful Japanese diet—perhaps even more so.

The 80 percent secret

Fill your belly to 80 percent. This is why Okinawans stop eating when they feel their stomachs reach 80 percent of their capacity, rather than overeating and wearing down their bodies with long digestive processes that accelerate cellular oxidation.

Moai: Connected for life 

It is customary in Okinawa to form close bonds within local communities. A moai is an informal group of people with common interests who look out for one another. For many, serving the community becomes part of their ikigai.

Antiaging Secrets

Little things that add up to a long and happy life

Active mind, youthful body

Having a youthful mind also drives you toward a healthy lifestyle that will slow the aging process.

Our neurons start to age while we are still in our twenties. This process is slowed, however, by intellectual activity, curiosity, and a desire to learn.

Stress: Accused of killing longevity

The University of California found that stress promotes cellular aging by weakening cell structures known as telomeres, which affect cellular regeneration and how our cells age.

Be mindful of reducing stress

Achieving mindfulness involves a gradual process of training, but with a bit of practice, we can learn to focus our minds completely, which reduces stress and helps us live longer.

A little stress is good for you

A psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, discovered that people who maintained a low level of stress, who faced challenges and put their heart and soul into their work to succeed, lived longer than those who chose a more relaxed lifestyle and retired earlier.

A lot of sitting will age you

Spending too much time seated at work or home not only reduces muscular and respiratory fitness but also increases appetite and curbs the desire to participate in activities.

A model’s best-kept secret

Science has shown that sleep is a key antiaging tool because when we sleep we generate melatonin, a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies.

Melatonin production decreases after age thirty. We can compensate for this by:

  • Eating a balanced diet and getting more calcium.
  • Soaking up a moderate amount of sun each day.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Avoiding stress, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, all of which make it harder to get a good night’s rest, depriving us of the melatonin we need.
Antiaging attitudes

One study, conducted at Yeshiva University, found that the people who live the longest have two dispositional traits in common: a positive attitude and a high degree of emotional awareness. In other words, those who face challenges with a positive outlook and can manage their emotions are already well on their way toward longevity.

From Logotherapy to Ikigai

How to live longer and better by finding your purpose

What is logotherapy?

In logotherapy, the patient sits up straight and has to listen to things that are, on occasion, hard to hear. It helps you find reasons to live.

The search for meaning

The process of logotherapy can be summarized in these five steps:

  1. A person feels empty, frustrated, or anxious.
  2. The therapist shows him that what he is feeling is the desire to have a meaningful life.
  3. The patient discovers his life’s purpose (at that particular point in time).
  4. Of his own free will, the patient decides to accept or reject that destiny.
  5. This newfound passion for life helps him overcome obstacles and sorrows.

Better living through logotherapy: A few key ideas

  • We don’t create the meaning of our life, as Sartre claimed—we discover it.
  • We each have a unique reason for being, which can be adjusted or transformed many times over the years.
  • Just as worry often brings about precisely the thing that was feared, excessive attention to a desire (or “hyper-intention”) can keep that desire from being fulfilled.
  • Humor can help break negative cycles and reduce anxiety.
  • We all can do noble or terrible things. The side of the equation we end up on depends on our decisions, not on the condition in which we find ourselves.

Find Flow in Everything You Do

How to turn work and free time into spaces for growth

The Seven Conditions for Achieving Flow

According to researcher Owen Schaffer of DePaul University, the requirements for achieving flow are knowing:

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

If you often find yourself losing focus while working on something you consider important, there are several strategies you can employ to increase your chances of achieving flow.

Strategy 1: Choose a difficult task (but not too difficult!)

Schaffer’s model encourages us to take on tasks that we have a chance of completing but that are slightly outside our comfort zone.

Strategy 2: Have a clear, concrete objective

Having a clear objective is important in achieving flow, but we also have to know how to leave it behind when we get down to business. Once the journey has begun, we should keep this objective in mind without obsessing over it.

Strategy 3: Concentrate on a single task

Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow.

Masters of Longevity

Words of wisdom from the longest-living people in the world

Misao Okawa (117) “Eat and sleep, and you’ll live a long time. You have to learn to relax.”

María Capovilla (116) “I’ve never eaten meat in my life.”

Jeanne Calment (122) “Everything’s fine.”

Walter Breuning (114) “If you keep your mind and body busy, you’ll be around a long time.”

Alexander Imich (111) “I just haven’t died yet.”

  1. Lessons from Japan’s Centenarians

Traditions and proverbs for happiness and longevity

  1. Don’t worry

“The secret to a long life is not to worry. And to keep your heart young—don’t let it grow old. Open your heart to people with a nice smile on your face. If you smile and open your heart, your grandchildren and everyone else will want to see you.”

  1. Cultivate good habits

“I feel joy every morning waking up at six and opening the curtains to look out at my garden, where I grow my vegetables. Then I go right outside to check on my tomatoes, my mandarin oranges . . . I love the sight of them—it relaxes me. After an hour in the garden, I go back inside and make breakfast.”

  1. Nurture your friendships every day

“Getting together with my friends is my most important ikigai. We all get together here and talk—it’s very important. I always know I’ll see them all here tomorrow, and that’s one of my favorite things in life.”

  1. Live an unhurried life

“My secret to a long life is always saying to myself, ‘Slow down,’ and ‘Relax.’ You live much longer if you’re not in a hurry.”

  1. Be optimistic

“Every day I say to myself, ‘Today will be full of health and energy. Live it to the fullest.’”

The Ikigai Diet

What do the world’s longest-living people eat and drink

Okinawa’s miracle diet
  • Locals eat a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables. Variety seems to be key.
  • They eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. At least seven types of fruits and vegetables are consumed by Okinawans daily.
  • Grains are the foundation of their diet. Japanese people eat white rice every day, sometimes adding noodles. Rice is the primary food in Okinawa, as well.
  • They rarely eat sugar, and if they do, it’s cane sugar.
Hara Hachi bu 

This brings us back to the 80 percent rule we mentioned in the first chapter, a concept known in Japanese as Hara Hachi bu. It’s easy to do: When you notice you’re almost full but could have a little more . . . just stop eating!

So, eat less to live longer?

The key to staying healthy while consuming fewer calories is eating foods with a high nutritional value (especially “superfoods”) and avoiding those that add to our overall caloric intake but offer little to no nutritional value.

An alternative to following the 80 percent rule daily is to fast for one or two days each week. The 5:2 (or fasting) diet recommends two days of fasting (consuming fewer than five hundred calories) every week and eating normally on the other five days.

Among its many benefits, fasting helps cleanse the digestive system and allows it to rest.

The secrets of green tea

Drinking green or white tea every day can help us reduce the free radicals in our bodies, keeping us young longer.

Gentle Movements, Longer Life

Exercises from the East that promote health and longevity

As Easy as Getting out of Your Chair

Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down.


Yoga strives to unite body and mind in the same way, guiding us toward a healthy lifestyle in harmony with the world around us.

The main objectives of yoga are:

  • To bring us closer to our (human) nature
  • Mental and physical purification
  • To bring us closer to the divine
Tai chi

Focused on self-defense, it teaches those who practice it to defeat their adversaries by using the least amount of force possible and by relying on agility.


Qigong involves static and dynamic physical exercises that stimulate respiration in a standing, seated or reclined position. There are many different styles of qigong, but all of them seek to strengthen and regenerate qi. Though its movements are typically gentle, the practice is intense.

Resilience and Wabi-sabi

How to face life’s challenges without letting stress and worry age you

What is resilience?

Resilience is our ability to deal with setbacks. The more resilient we are, the easier it will be to pick ourselves up and get back to what gives meaning to our lives.

Emotional resilience through Buddhism and Stoicism

Since their inception, one of the objectives of both Buddhism and Stoicism has been to control pleasure, emotions, and desires. Though the philosophies are very different, both aim to curb our egos and control our negative emotions.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

People can be insatiable. We always want more. To keep their minds virtuous, the Stoics practiced something like negative visualization: They imagined the worst thing that could happen to be prepared if certain privileges and pleasures were taken from them. As a result, we can answer and not be frightened by what is the worse that could happen.

Meditating for healthier emotions

In Zen Buddhism, meditation is a way to become aware of our desires and emotions and thereby free ourselves from them. It is not simply a question of keeping the mind free of thoughts but instead involves observing our thoughts and emotions as they appear, without getting carried away by them. In this way, we train our minds not to get swept up in anger, jealousy, or resentment.

The here and now, and the impermanence of things

The only moment in which you can be truly alive is the present moment. The temporary, ephemeral, and impermanent nature of the world are central to every Buddhist discipline. Keeping this always in mind helps us avoid excessive pain in times of loss.

Beyond resilience: Antifragility

Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

How can we be more antifragile?

Step 1: Create redundancies

Instead of having a single salary, try to find a way to make money from your hobbies, at other jobs, or by starting your own business. If you have only one salary, you might be left with nothing should your employer run into trouble, leaving you in a position of fragility.

Step 2: Bet conservatively in certain areas and take many small risks in others

The key to becoming antifragile is taking on small risks that might lead to great rewards, without exposing ourselves to dangers that might sink us

Step 3: Get rid of the things that make you fragile

We’re taking the negative route for this exercise. Ask yourself: What makes me fragile? Certain people, things, and habits generate losses for us and make us vulnerable. Who and what are they?

The ten rules of ikigai

We’ll conclude this journey with ten rules we’ve distilled from the wisdom of the long-living residents of Ogimi:

  1. Stay active; don’t retire. Those who give up the things they love doing and do well lose their purpose in life. That’s why it’s so important to keep doing things of value, making progress, bringing beauty or utility to others, helping out, and shaping the world around you, even after your “official” professional activity has ended.
  2. Take it slow. Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to the quality of life. As the old saying goes, “Walk slowly and you’ll go far.” When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. Less is more when it comes to eating for long life, too. According to the 80 percent rule, to stay healthier longer, we should eat a little less than our hunger demands instead of stuffing ourselves.
  4. Surround yourself with good friends. Friends are the best medicine, there for confiding worries over a good chat, sharing stories that brighten your day, getting advice, having fun, dreaming . . . in other words, living.
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday. Water moves; it is at its best when it flows fresh and doesn’t stagnate. The body you move through life in needs a bit of daily maintenance to keep it running for a long time. Plus, exercise releases hormones that make us feel happy.
  6. Smile. A cheerful attitude is not only relaxing—it also helps make friends. It’s good to recognize the things that aren’t so great, but we should never forget what a privilege it is to be in the here and now in a world so full of possibilities.
  7. Reconnect with nature. Though most people live in cities these days, human beings are made to be part of the natural world. We should return to it often to recharge our batteries.
  8. Give thanks. To your ancestors, to nature, which provides you with the air you breathe and the food you eat, to your friends and family, to everything that brightens your days and makes you feel lucky to be alive. Spend a moment every day giving thanks, and you’ll watch your stockpile of happiness grow.
  9. Live in the moment. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future. Today is all you have. Make the most of it. Make it worth remembering.
  10. Follow your ikigai. There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, as Viktor Frankl says, your mission is to discover it.

🔭 Review of Ikigai

Ikigai is a book that I read accidentally rather than intentionally. I just happened to read it and that was all about it. There was no conceptual idea that intrigued me nor a life-changing expectation that allured me. I read it because I had nothing else to read at that moment and that is a good outlook to start reading a book.

Let me start with the good bits. The book is what you can call a light-hearted book. Something you can read leisurely while sipping your evening coffee. A book that doesn’t frustrate you with complexity nor submerge your mood by indulging in negativity. This book as it turns out is a very simple, short, breezy book that doesn’t take a toll on you.

On the flip side, though this book is named Ikigai, this is not entirely about Ikigai. This book is about longevity. Ikigai is just one aspect of it. I feel there should have been more emphasis on Ikigai as that is something relatively new for the reader. Saying that Ikigai is your reason to live and finding your ikigai doesn’t feel like isn’t going to cut it. Maybe that is too much to ask

Overall, this book seems to be worth it for what it seems to demand. If you are not expecting a revolutionary book but a mellow one, this one will do just fine.

💯 My Rating


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