Ikigai: the happiness of always being busy – book review

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I just finished reading: ‘Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’. What is it about? Should you read it? Did I find my ikigai? In this blog I will give you my personal opinion about the book.

The main reason I picked it up is because of the interesting diagram I found on the cover at the back of the book. In that diagram the word ikigai is right in the middle of the circles: what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for and what you are good at. The purpose of the book is to help you find the magic center of your own circles: your ikigai. That really grabbed my attention so I started to read.

Ikigai: the happiness of always being busy

The book was written by Héctor García, an Engineer from Spain who has been living in Japan for over a decade. And by Francesc Miralles, a Spanish writer of self-help and inspirational books. When they met each other in Japan they started talking about trends in Western psychology. Especially about logotherapy which is about helping people find their purpose in life. At some point they started talking about a similar Japanese concept called ikigai. Something that can be translated as ‘the happiness of always being busy.’

Happily growing old

The concept of ikigai is also linked to ‘happily growing old’. That is why in the book they also try to uncover some of the secrets to growing old. For their investigation they travel to the island of Okinawa, the place with the most centenarians in the world.

From that point on the book is really about things these people do to stay healthy, happy and grow even older. It is about nutrition (antioxidants), constantly moving (not exercizing!), forming active communities with family and friends and doing something meaningful like maintaining a vegetable garden. That last thing is one example of what the writers think is the ikigai of the Okinawans.

That question was not answered

To be honest I was a bit disappointed when I finished the book. I already read some books about the centenarians of Okinawa and their healthy lifestyles. That is very interesting and that in itself could be a perfect reason to read the book. But it was not the information I was looking for. I guess my expectations were wrong since I thought it was a book about how I would find my own ikigai. Unfortunately that question was not answered.

Strangely enough the writers end the book with the sentence: ‘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.’ I know! But how do I do that?

I just picked up a new book called:’Awakening your Ikigai, How the Japanese Wake up to Joy and Purpose every Day’ by Ken Mogi. Hope this is what I’m looking for. I’ll keep you posted!

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