Book notes: Ikigai by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles

Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles book summary review and key ideas.

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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles


“Bring meaning and joy to all your days with this internationally best-selling guide to the Japanese concept of ikigai – the happiness of always being busy – as revealed by the daily habits of the world’s longest-living people.

“Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” (Japanese proverb)

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. It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire (in fact there’s no word in Japanese that means retire in the sense it does in English): They remain active and work at what they enjoy, because they’ve found a real purpose in life – the happiness of always being busy. In researching this book, the authors interviewed the residents of the Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds – one of the world’s Blue Zones. Ikigai reveals the secrets to their longevity and happiness: how they eat, how they move, how they work, how they foster collaboration and community, and – their best-kept secret – how they find the ikigai that brings satisfaction to their lives. And it provides practical tools to help you discover your own ikigai. Because who doesn’t want to find happiness in every day?” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I’ve had a few discussions recently on this topic and recently found out recently found this book on audible. I’m actually pretty excited to read it and it seems like a pretty fast read.

Key notes:

Prologue Ikigai: a mysterious word

  • Studies suggest that the high average age of citizens in Okinawa may be attributed to Ikigai in addition to other factors in the culture
  • One of the secrets to happiness in that area is their sense of community, along with how they take care of themselves

Chapter 1: Ikigai – the art of staying young while growing old

  • Our Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning
    • It can be described as the common ground between what you’re good at, what you love, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for
    • Whatever you do, don’t retire
  • There is no word or concept for retire in Japanese culture
    • They do what they love for as long as they can

Reader’s note: This reminds me of the book Convenience Store Woman, which is about a Japanese woman who believes her life purpose is to work at a convenience store. However, she finds difficulty in navigating societal pressures and expectations of her

  • According to scientists who have studied the five blue zones of populations with high longevity, the keys to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life, and forming strong social ties, which is having a broad circle of friends and strong family relations 

Chapter 2: Antiaging secrets –little things that add up to a long and happy life

  • Maintaining an active, adaptable mind is one of the keys to staying young
    • Having a youthful mind will guide you towards a healthy lifestyle
  • Our neurons start to age in our 20s
    • This process is slowed however by intellectual activity, curiosity, and a desire to learn
    • Dealing with new situations, learning something new every day, playing games and interacting with other people seem to be essential for anti-aging strategies for the mind
  • Stress breaks down the body and advances aging
    • Studies show that stress is a leading cause of many illnesses
    • Be mindful of creating stressful situations
  • Practicing mindfulness is a great way to manage our thoughts and feelings that cause or create stress
  • A little stress is good for you, particularly low levels of positive stress
    • People who do this tend to develop good habits that contribute to better health
  • A lot of sitting will age you
    • Walk to work or at least go on a walk for at least 20 minutes each day
  • Replace unhealthy snacks with fruits
  • Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day
    • Science says sleep is a key anti-aging tool
  • Be physically active with sports or other social activities
  • Be mindful of your daily habits and any bad ones you may have developed
  • Scientists agree that the key to keeping the body young is keeping the mind active
  • One study shows 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, people who oppose challenges with a positive outlook and have high emotional awareness are well on their way

Chapter 3: from logotherapy ikigai: how to live longer and better by finding your purpose

  • Logotherapy helps you find reasons to live
    • It pushes patience to find their life’s purpose

Book reference: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – “If someone has a ‘why’ to live, they can get through the ‘how’

  • We don’t create the meaning in our life, we discover it
  • Do what you should be doing and focus on the present moment
  • The therapist’s job is to help the patient develop character so they can handle difficult situations
    • Character is based on what you do and your actions

Chapter 4: find flow in everything you do: how to turn work and free time into Spaces for growth

  • What makes us enjoy something so much that our perception of time changes? When are we happiest?
  • Book reference: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • The seven conditions for achieving flow:
    1. Knowing what to do
    2. Knowing how to do it
    3. Knowing how well you’re doing
    4. Knowing where to go where navigation is needed
    5. Perceiving significant challenges
    6. Perceiving significance skills
    7. Being free from distractions
  • Strategy: concentrate on a single task 
    • Movie reference: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
    • Our ability to turn routine tasks into moments of micro flow into something we enjoy is key to our being happy since we all have to do such tasks
  • All types of meditation have the same objective: calming the mind, observing our thoughts and emotions, and centering our focus on a single object
  • Focus on enjoying your daily rituals
    • Don’t worry about the outcome as it will come naturally
  • Happiness is in the doing, not in the result
    • Remind yourself: rituals over goals
    • The happiest people aren’t the ones who achieve the most, they are the ones who spend more time in a state of flow than others

Chapter 5: masters of longevity: words of wisdom from The longest-living people in the world

Chapter 6: lessons from Japan’s centenarians: traditions and proverbs for happiness and longevity

  • One of them says the secret is smiling and having a good time
  • Celebrate each day together
  • Spirituality is also a key element 
  • The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for 
  1. Don’t worry
    • Keep your heart young. Don’t let it grow old
    • Open your heart to people with a nice smile on your face
    • Spending time together and having fun is the only thing that matters
  2. Cultivate good habits
    • To live long you need to do three things: exercise to stay healthy, eat well, and spend time with people
  3. Nurture your friendships every day
    • Talking each day with the people you love is the secret to a long life
  4. Live an unhurried life
  5. Be optimistic
  • All of the people they interviewed have their own vegetable garden
  • They all belong to some sort of community or association, and singing, music, and dance are part of their life

Chapter 7: the Ikigai diet: what’s the world’s longest-living people eat and drink

  • Okinawa is one of the few provinces that don’t have trains which forces people to walk or cycle to their destinations
    • They also follow recommendations of eating less than 10 g of salt per day
  • The Okinawa diet includes a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables
    • They eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Their primary staple is grains, particularly white rice
    • They hardly ever eat sugar, and if it is, it is cane sugar
  • They also eat fish three times per week
  • They also limit caloric intake by eating almost enough to be full but just stopping right before
    • Eating fewer calories seems to be one of the secrets of longevity, and also eating nutritionally dense superfoods 
  • They also recommend a 5:2 fasting schedule where you eat fewer than 500 cal two of the days and normally the other five days. This helps with digestion and cleansing
  • Green tea has been credited with significant benefits for centuries

Chapter 8: Gentle Movements, Longer Life: Exercises from the East that Promote Health and Longevity

  • Studies show that people who live the longest don’t exercise the most, but rather move the most
  • Gentle exercises such as yoga and tai chi are cited as elixirs of youth for their popularity and benefits

Chapter 9: resilience and Wabi-Sabi: how to face life’s challenges without letting life stress and worries age you

  • Proper training for our mind, body, and emotional resilience is essential for confronting life’s ups and downs
  • Resilience is our ability to deal with setbacks
    • For resilient people, their flexibility and adaptability are the sources of their strength
  • Sidhartha / the Buddha learned that a wise person should not ignore life’s pleasures, but should always remain conscious of how easy it is to be enslaved by them
  • The objective of a virtuous person is to reach a state of tranquility
    • The absence of negative feelings such as fear, shame, anxiety, anger, and the presence of positive feelings such as love, serenity, and gratitude

Reader’s note: This section is a good reference to Seneca. Ask yourself: what’s the worst that could happen? Practice negative visualization or put into practice simulating those things

  • As referenced in the Serenity Prayer, it’s important to understand what we can and cannot control
The here and now and the impermanence of things
  • Buddhism and Stoicism remind us that only the present exists and it is the only thing we can control
    • Instead of worrying about the past and the future, we should appreciate things just as they are in the moment, the now
  • The Buddhists also recommend reflecting on the impermanence of the things around us
    • We should always remember that all the things we love around us will be gone eventually, but also do not give them to pessimism
    • Being aware shouldn’t make a sad, but to appreciate the present moment
  • Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese concept that shows us the beauty of the fleeting, changeable, and imperfect nature of the world around us
    • Instead of searching for beauty and perfection, we should see the beauty in the imperfect and the incomplete, which more reflects the natural world
  • Anti-fragile is different than resilient which is robust and stays the same
    • Anti-fragility is when something gets stronger when harmed
  • How can we become more anti-fragile?
    • Step 1 – Create redundancies such as having different sources of income
      • In relationships, build strong friendships outside of your partner so that if the relationship does end, you’ll be able to move on more easily
    • Step 2 – Bet conservatively in some areas, and take many small risks in others
    • Step 3 – Get rid of the things that make you fragile
      • Ask yourself: what makes me fragile?
  • To build resilience in our lives, we shouldn’t fear adversity because each setback is an opportunity for growth
    • If we adopt an anti-fragile attitude, we’ll figure out how to get stronger with every blow, refining our lifestyle, and focusing on our Ikigai
  • Book reference: Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Epilogue: Ikigai: the art of living

  • Remember to have something that keeps you busy that you love while being surrounded by the people who love you
The 10 Rules of Ikigai
  1. Stay active, don’t retire
    • Keep growing, learning, find a purpose, and add value to the world around you 
  2. Take it slow
    • When you leave urgency behind, life and time take on a new meaning
  3. Don’t fill your stomach
    • Use the 80% rule and eat until you are 80% full
  4. Surround yourself with good friends
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday
    • Your body needs daily maintenance to keep it running for a long time
    • Exercise also releases hormones that make us happy
  6. Smile
    • A cheerful attitude is not only relaxing but helps make friends
  7. Reconnect with nature
    • Humans are meant to be part of the natural world so return to it often to recharge your batteries
  8. Give thanks
    • To your ancestors, to nature, to your friends and family come, to everything that brightens your days and makes you thankful to be alive
  9. Live in the moment
    • Stop regretting the past and fearing the future
    • Today is all you have so 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 very best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what it is, your mission is to discover it

Closing thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book as it had a lot of practical insight relevant to pretty much everyone.

However, I will note that based on the overall idea of this book, it should have been called something relating to “how to live a long and happy life” instead of Ikigai. Ikigai was one part of the keys to living a long and happy life, but I’m not sure why the author decided to make that the title of the book.

Based on the title and definition of Ikigai, it makes you think that the book will talk about how to find your life’s purpose, and maybe give examples of people who have. However, the book took quite the left turn and instead talked about ideas and lifestyle characteristics of people who live long lives. While it’s still an interesting and useful topic to explore, it felt like a bait and switch.

Overall, it was a great book. I’m personally fascinated by things related to longevity and happiness, so this book was very relevant to my own goals and interests. However, I would have also liked to actually learn more about Ikigai, such as how people have found come across the intersection of those four categories to eventually discover their purpose. And while it covers a lot of great ideas, it doesn’t go too deep into any particular topic.

Basically, this book is a great starting point for moving towards longevity and happiness, but the reader will definitely need more resources that delve further into these topics for more practical advice.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

My one takeaway from this book would have to be the general, main idea that the author was trying to get across:

  • The art of living a long and happy life involves doing what you love often and being surrounded by people who love you

I think this is a great, solid takeaway from this book, and a central idea I plan to keep in mind throughout my own life.


The keys to living a long and happy life involve finding your life’s purpose, being surrounded by loved ones, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


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