Why Did I Read This?
What is the meaning of my life?
What is my life’s purpose? Why do I exist?
These are questions that I have been asking myself since I was a child. I’ve read numerous books, scoured over the theories of philosophers and authors but instead of finding clear answers, all I got were more questions.
Fast forward to the start of 2019.
One day I was browsing on Facebook and saw my senior from Theatre Studies giving away books, and one book caught my eye—IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
Lucky me, she lives in the same building so I was able to pick the book up within days.
It was really timely. After reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, I started my journey of finding my WHY, which was an easy transition to IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
Sinek’s definition of WHY is a purpose, cause or belief that has been in you all the time which is also the reason you wake up every morning with a clear sense of why every day matters and live a fulfilled and successful life. And at first read on the folded-in front cover of IKIGAI, it seems similar.
“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.”
Will I find my reason for living? Not mid-way reading the book or immediately after reading the book of course…
What’s The Book About?
“The purpose of this book is to bring the secrets of Japan’s centenarians to you and give you the tools to find your own ikigai.”
My 3 Biggest Takeaways
Biggest Takeaway #1
We can use the concept of flow to find our ikigai—And flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.)
This concept of flow really reminds me of 2 books by Cal Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You & Deep Work.
Where Cal Newport actually dives deep into the science of deliberate practice, how we can actually accumulate what he calls “career capital” to invest in traits that make our work great.
And in order for that to happen, we need to engage in deliberate practice which requires this intense focus and enjoyment called flow.
Biggest Takeaway #2
“Training the mind can get us to a place of flow more quickly. Meditation is one way to exercise our mental muscles.”
An affirmation and reminder that I need to persist with my meditation practice, because one of the benefits of meditation is focus.
And that is key to entering and staying in a state of flow.
Biggest Takeaway #3
“One thing that every with a clearly defined ikigai has in common is that they pursue their passion no matter what. They never give up, even when the cards seem stacked against them or they face one hurdle after another.”
So it seems that this is an indicator that I’ve found my ikigai.
But at the same time, I do have some doubts of its impracticality.
Should You Read This?
I was expecting more from this book, at least a systematic approach of discovering my reason for living. But it seemed like I was totally misguided by my pre-conceived expectations that a book named, IKIGAI, would focus more on helping the reader find their real purpose in life before discussing at length “The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.”
Or maybe show the readers with case studies of how real people found their reason for being and it helped them live a long and happy life?
In the beginning, the authors talked about how logotherapy has gone out of fashion but doesn’t tell us why then are they presenting logotherapy in this book? They explored logotherapy by Victor Frankl’s in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning to Morita therapy, telling us that we will “look at the basic tools you’ll need to get moving along that path…”
Then it got me thinking… so does this book tell us how to find our Ikigai or not?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
It then segues into how we can use the concept of flow to find our reason for living. “Flow is mysterious. It is like a muscle: the more you train it, the more you will flow, and the closer you will be to your ikigai.”
And to enter and remain in a state of flow requires focus and concentration, we get it… but what should we be “flowing” in?
“What makes us enjoy doing something so much that we forget whatever worries we might have while we do it? When are we happiest? These questions can help us discover our ikigai.”
The book also seem to emphasise so much on happiness and enjoyment when talking about flow and having discovered your ikigai that it seemed to be so caught up in the viewpoint of having already discovered your reason for living than its original intent of helping us get there.
Telling us to “Be led by your curiosity, and keep busy by doing things that fill you with meaning and happiness” is vague, so maybe examples and case studies of how real-life individuals have discovered their ikigai would be more practical and useful.
Because life, as we all know, is short. Are we supposed to try every single thing that we are curious about? And what if initially the things that we do fill us with this sense of purpose and happiness… but a few months down the road, we lose interest in it?
We restart the process over and over again until we finally discover our ikigai? This book seems to touch and go without really giving concrete guidance on how we can systematically discover our ikigai. Or is discovering our ikigai that elusive and intangible?
It would have been great if the authors dived deeper into the process and the pitfalls that we might encounter as we embark on our personal quest to discover our ikigai. After all, we are talking about our reason for living.
Buy or Borrow?
I would say, borrow the book. And if you really like it, then get a copy.
Keep learning to fuel your dreams!