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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

ikigai venn diagram


  • The moai has its origins in hard times, when farmers would get together to share best practices and help one another cope with meager harvests.
  • Members of a moai make a set monthly contribution to the group. This payment allows them to participate in meetings, dinners, games of go and shogi (Japanese chess), or whatever hobby they have in common. The funds collected by the group are used for activities, but if there is money left over, one member (decided on a rotating basis) receives a set amount from the surplus. In this way, being part of a moai helps maintain emotional and financial stability. If a member of a moai is in financial trouble, he or she can get an increase life expectancy.
    • Konsep ini mirip dengan konsep koperasi, namun untuk hobi atau komunitas.

Antiaging Secrets

  • 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. Dealing with new situations, learning something new every day, playing games, and interacting with other people seem to be essential antiaging strategies for the mind.
  • Researchers at the Heidelberg University Hospital conducted a study in which they subjected a young doctor to a job interview, which they made even more stressful by forcing him to solve complex math problems for thirty minutes. Afterward, they took a blood sample. What they discovered was that his antibodies had reacted to stress the same way they react to pathogens, activating the proteins that trigger an immune response. The problem is that this response not only neutralizes harmful agents, it also damages healthy cells, leading them to age prematurely.
  • At this fever pitch, stress is a natural response to the information being received by the body as potentially dangerous or problematic. Theoretically, this is a useful reaction, as it helps us survive in hostile surroundings. Over the course of our evolution, we have used this response to deal with difficult situations and to flee from predators.
  • The alarm that goes off in our head makes our neurons activate the pituitary gland, which produces hormones that release corticotropin, which in turn circulates through the body via the sympathetic nervous system. The adrenal gland is then triggered to release adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline raises our respiratory rate and pulse and prepares our muscles for action, getting the body ready to react to perceived danger, while cortisol increases the release of dopamine and blood glucose, which is what gets us “charged up” and allows us to face challenges.
  • Stress has a degenerative effect over time. A sustained state of emergency affects the neurons associated with memory, as well as inhibiting the release of certain hormones, the absence of which can cause depression. Its secondary effects include irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
  • Spending too much time seated at work or at home not only reduces muscular and respiratory fitness but also increases appetite and curbs the desire to participate in activities.
  • Walk to work, or just go on a walk for at least twenty minutes each day.
  • Use your feet instead of an elevator or escalator. This is good for your posture, your muscles, and your respiratory system, among other things.
  • Participate in social or leisure activities so that you don’t spend too much time in front of the television.
  • Replace your junk food with fruit and you’ll have less of an urge to snack, and more nutrients in your system.
  • Get the right amount of sleep. Seven to nine hours is good, but any more than that makes us lethargic.
  • Play with children or pets, or join a sports team. This not only strengthens the body but also stimulates the mind and boosts self-esteem.
  • Be conscious of your daily routine in order to detect harmful habits and replace them with more positive ones.
  • 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. The pineal gland produces it from the neurotransmitter serotonin according to our diurnal and nocturnal rhythms, and it plays a role in our sleep and waking cycles. A powerful antioxidant, melatonin helps us live longer, and also offers the following benefits:
    • It strengthens the immune system.
    • It contains an element that protects against cancer.
    • It promotes the natural production of insulin.
    • It slows the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
    • It helps prevent osteoporosis and fight heart disease.
    • It should be noted, however, that 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.
  • A stoic attitude —serenity in the face of a setback—can also help keep you young, as it lowers anxiety and stress levels and stabilizes behavior.

From Logotherapy to Ikigai

  • Frankl believed that our health depends on that natural tension that comes from comparing what we’ve accomplished so far with what we’d like to achieve in the future. What we need, then, is not a peaceful existence, but a challenge we can strive to meet by applying all the skills at our disposal.
  • Existential crisis, on the other hand, is typical of modern societies in which people do what they are told to do, or what others do, rather than what they want to do. They often try to fill the gap between what is expected of them and what they want for themselves with economic power or physical pleasure, or by numbing their senses.
  • 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.

Find flow in everything you do

  • here is no future, no past. There is only the present. You feel the snow, your skis, your body, and your consciousness united as a single entity. You are completely immersed in the experience, not thinking about or distracted by anything else. Your ego dissolves, and you become part of what you are doing. This is the kind of experience Bruce Lee described with his famous “Be water, my friend.”
  • The Seven Conditions for Achieving Flow According to researcher Owen Schaffer of DePaul University, the requirements for achieving flow are: Knowing what to do Knowing how to do it Knowing how well you are doing Knowing where to go (where navigation is involved) Perceiving significant challenges Perceiving significant skills Being free from distractions 1
    • Strategy 1: Choose a difficult task (but not too difficult!)
    • Strategy 2: Have a clear, concrete objective
      • According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, when asked about their bosses, the number one complaint of employees at multinational corporations is that they don’t “communicate the team’s mission clearly,” and that, as a result, the employees don’t know what their objectives are.
      • As soon as you take these first small steps, your anxiety will disappear and you will achieve a pleasant flow in the activity you’re doing. Getting back to Albert Einstein, “a happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future.”
    • Strategy 3: Concentrate on a single task
      • Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, in order to focus on a task we need: To be in a distraction-free environment To have control over what we are doing at every moment
      • Don’t look at any kind of screen for the first hour you’re awake and the last hour before you go to sleep. Turn off your phone before you achieve flow. There is nothing more important than the task you have chosen to do during this time. If this seems too extreme, enable the “do not disturb” function so only the people closest to you can contact you in case of emergency. Designate one day of the week, perhaps a Saturday or Sunday, a day of technological “fasting,” making exceptions only for e-readers (without Wi-Fi) or MP3 players. Go to a café that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. Read and respond to e-mail only once or twice per day. Define those times clearly and stick to them. Try the Pomodoro Technique: Get yourself a kitchen timer (some are made to look like a pomodoro , or tomato) and commit to working on a single task as ong as it’s running. The Pomodoro Technique recommends 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest for each cycle, but you can also do 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest. Find the pace that’s best for you; the most important thing is to be disciplined in completing each cycle. Start your work session with a ritual you enjoy and end it with a reward. Train your mind to return to the present when you find yourself getting distracted. Practice mindfulness or another form of meditation, go for a walk or a swim—whatever will help you get centered again. Work in a space where you will not be distracted. If you can’t do this at home, go to a library, a café, or, if your task involves playing the saxophone, a music studio. If you find that your surroundings continue to distract you, keep looking until you find the right place. Divide each activity into groups of related tasks, and assign each group its own place and time. For example, if you’re writing a magazine article, you could do research and take notes at home in the morning, write in the library in the afternoon, and edit on the couch at night. Bundle routine tasks—such as sending out invoices, making phone calls, and so on—and do them all at once.
  • Japanese people often apply themselves to even the most basic tasks with an intensity that borders on obsession.
  • If you go to Japan, you’ll experience this attention to detail firsthand in almost every transaction.
  • Ever since his first trip to Japan, Jobs was fascinated and inspired by the country’s artisans, engineers (especially at Sony), philosophy (especially Zen), and cuisine (especially sushi).
  • In Miyazaki’s films, forests have personalities, trees have feelings, and robots befriend birds
  • He uses a cell phone from the late 1990s, and he makes his entire team draw by hand. He “directs” his films by rendering on paper even the tiniest detail, achieving flow by drawing, not by using a computer.
  • Miyazaki is so passionate about his work that he spends many Sundays in the studio, enjoying the state of flow, putting his ikigai above all else.
  • Miyazaki can’t stop drawing. The day after his “retirement,” instead of going on vacation or staying at home, he went to Studio Ghibli and sat down to draw.
  • One year later, he announced he wouldn’t make any more feature films but that he would keep on drawing until the day he died.
  • If we want to get better at reaching a state of flow, meditation is an excellent antidote to our smartphones and their notifications constantly clamoring for our attention
  • When doing business in Japan, process, manners, and how you work on something is more important than the final results.
  • What is indisputable, though, is that finding flow in a “ritualistic workplace” is much easier than in one in which we are continually stressed out trying to achieve unclear goals set by our bosses.
  • Happiness is in the doing, not in the result. As a rule of thumb, remind yourself: “Rituals over goals.”
  • then ask yourself these questions: What do the activities that drive you to flow have in common? Why do those activities drive you to flow? For example, are all the activities you most like doing ones that you practice alone or with other people? Do you flow more when doing things that require you to move your body or just to think?

Lessons from Japan's centerinarians

  • According to this ancient faith, the world is populated by an infinite number of spirits divided into several types: spirits of the home, of the forest, of the trees, and of the mountains.

The Ikigai Diet

  • Experts point out that, for one thing, Okinawa is the only province in Japan without trains. Its residents have to walk or cycle when not driving. It is also the only province that has managed to follow the Japanese government’s recommendation of eating less than ten grams of salt per day.
  • Grains are the foundation of their diet.
  • They rarely eat sugar , and if they do, it’s cane sugar.
  • It’s easy to do: When you notice you’re almost full but could have a little more . . . just stop eating!
  • Serving food on many small plates makes it easier to avoid eating too much, and facilitates the varied diet discussed at the beginning of this chapter.
  • An alternative to following the 80 percent rule on a daily basis 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

Resilience and Wabi-Sabi

  • Sooner or later, we all have to face difficult moments, and the way we do this can make a huge difference to our quality of life. Proper training for our mind, body, and emotional resilience is essential for confronting life’s ups and downs.
  • The more resilient we are, the easier it will be to pick ourselves up and get back to what gives meaning to our lives.
  • Though the philosophies are very different, both aim to curb our ego and control our negative emotions.
  • According to Stoicism, our pleasures and desires are not the problem. We can enjoy them as long as they don’t take control of us.
  • In order to keep their minds virtuous, the Stoics practiced something like negative visualization: They imagined the worst thing that could happen in order to be prepared if certain privileges and pleasures were taken from them.
  • In the words of Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.”
  • “Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ ,” in which oṃ is the generosity that purifies the ego, ma is the ethics that purifies jealousy, ṇi is the patience that purifies passion and desire, pad is the precision that purifies bias, me is the surrender that purifies greed, and hūṃ is the wisdom that purifies hatred.
  • “All things human are short-lived and perishable,” Seneca tells us.
  • 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 in perfection, we should look for it in things that are flawed, incomplete.
  • of ichi-go ichi-e , which could be translated as “This moment exists only now and won’t come again.”
  • The key is to accept that there are certain things over which we have no control, like the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of the world around us.
  • 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.
    • The same idea goes for friendships and personal
  • As Taleb writes in Antifragile , “We need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, hear traumatic episodes, all these things that make life worth living.”

10 Rules of Ikigai

  1. Stay active; don't retire
  2. Take it slow
  3. Don't fill your stomach
  4. Surround your self with good friends
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday
  6. Smile
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Give thanks
  9. Live in the moment
  10. Follow your ikigai

Ruby is my lifework, so I will never retire from developing Ruby. I want to be involved in the Ruby development as long as I’m alive -- Matz