Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years!
The people of Japan believe that everyone has an ikigai- a reason to jump out of bed each morning.
This Japanese concept which translates roughly as “the happiness of always being busy”, is like logotherapy, but it goes a step beyond. It also seems to be one way of explaining the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese, especially on the island of Okinawa, where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 1,00,000 inhabitants – far more than global average.
Ogimi, a rural town on the north end of the island with a population of three thousand, boasts the highest life expectancy in the world – a fact that has earned it the nickname the Village of Longevity. It turns out that one of the secrets to happiness of Ogimi’s residents is the feeling like a part of community. They practice teamwork from an early age. Nurturing friendships, eating light, getting enough rest and doing regular moderate exercise are all part of the equation of good health, but at the heart what inspires these centenarians to keep celebrating birthdays and cherishing each new day is their ikigai.
Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow.
“Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing,” says Hector Garcia, the co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. He writes,“Just as humans have lusted after objects and money since the dawn of time, other humans have felt dissatisfaction at the relentless pursuit of money and fame and have instead focused on something bigger than their own material wealth. This has over the years been described using many different words and practices, but always hearkening back to the central core of meaningfulness in life.”
ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:
-What you love (your passion)
-What the world needs (your mission)
-What you are good at (your vocation)
-What you can get paid for (your profession)
Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer.
In their book Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles break down the ten rules that can help anyone find their own ikigai.
- Stay active and don’t retire
- Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
- Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
- Smile and acknowledge people around you
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.
- Live in the moment
- Follow your ikigai.
“Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.”
We are born curious. Our insatiable drive to learn, invent, explore, and study deserves to have the same status as every other drive in our lives.
Fulfilment is fast becoming the main priority for most of us. Millions of people still struggle to find what they are meant to do. What excites them. What makes them lose the sense of time. What brings out the best in them.
Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we all are searching for meaning. When we spend our days feeling connected to what is meaningful to us, we live more; when we lose the connection, we feel despair.
There is no perfect strategy to connecting with our ikigai. But what we have learned from Okinawans is that we should not worry too much about finding it. Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by people who love you.