Héctor García and Francesc Miralles’s bestseller details how the long-lived Japanese connect with their ikigai and maintain a sense of life-affirming flow.
In this Los Angeles Times bestseller – which has sold more than 1.5 million copies – Héctor García and Francesc Miralles delve into the secrets of longevity. They ask what role external forces, such as climate and diet, play in life span. The authors visit a remote village in Japan, home to a disproportionate number of centenarians, to learn the secrets to living happy, productive lives. The locals’ tips share a common theme: their ikigai, or purpose. Discover how to connect with your ikigai to find flow in your work and daily activity, and to live a long and joyful life.
Many Japanese people never really retire – they keep doing what they love as long as their health allows.Héctor García, Francesc Miralles
The Guardian said, “A must-follow lifestyle hack. Think feng shui with Venn diagrams.” The New York Post wrote, “Ikigai is the art of doing something – and doing it with supreme focus and joy.” Publishers Weekly found the authors “persuasively show that small changes can help readers find more joy and purpose in their lives.”
In regions of the world featuring high rates of longevity and healthy living – which García and Miralles identify as “Blue Zones” – residents live happier, more active lives. The authors found that the locals’ lifestyles – including eating well and exercising – contribute to a longer life span.
García and Miralles cite Sardinia, Italy, where people consume a variety of vegetables and wine daily; Ikaria, Greece, where one third of the population lives past their 90th birthdays; andthe Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, where residents remain active well into their 90s.
People in these regions, García and Miralles report, suffer fewer incidents of chronic illness, have higher levels of energy and lower rates of dementia. They note that, remarkably, three Blue Zones with the highest rates of longevity are islands. The authors suggest that island living creates reliance on other people, which plays an important role in residents’ longevity.
You don’t need to go to the gym for an hour every day or run marathons. As Japanese centenarians show us, all you need is to add movement to your day.Héctor García, Francesc Miralles
García and Miralles identify Okinawa, Japan, as having the highest rate of longevity in the world; its residents live an active, healthy and communal lifestyle. The authors detail the Japanese belief that each individual has a purpose – a personal ikigai – or “why” of living. Finding their ikigai means people integrate their passions into their work and personal lives, filling them with joy and meaning, and extending their lives.
A Healthy Lifestyle
The authors cover some health basics as they explain that stress generates the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. They note that long-term stress can cause memory issues, insomnia, chronic fatigue and depression. As do many authors, they recommend meditation, yoga, mindfulness and getting more sleep to reduce stress.
Both mind and body are important…the health of one is connected to that of the other. It has been shown that maintaining an active, adaptable mind is one of the key factors in staying young.Héctor García, Francesc Miralles
García and Miralles’s research uncovered a strong connection between long-lived people’s well-being and their diet. The authors learned that these people eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and healthy grains such as rice and noodles; they consume little sugar or salt; and they eat fewer calories, overall. García and Miralles celebrate the prevalence of the 80% rule in Okinawa: People stop eating when they feel 80% full.
The authors also promote gentle exercise and low-stress movement throughout the day, including yoga; the stationary poses of qigong; and the gentle martial art of tai chi.
García and Miralles describe the benefits of logotherapy: a counseling method that helps people find their purpose in life by focusing on their future, facing life’s challenges and moving toward goals.
What we need…is not a peaceful existence, but a challenge we can strive to meet by applying all the skills at our disposal.Héctor García, Francesc Miralles
Logotherapy principles, the authors explain, include discovering your purpose; adjusting your reasons for living as circumstances change; realizing that excess desire thwarts achievement; fighting negativity with humor; and controlling your actions and reactions.
A crucial aid to finding your ikigai, García and Miralles reveal, is learning what puts you in a state of flow.
The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.Héctor García, Francesc Miralles
To find that state, the authors suggest you set a difficult but not overwhelming challenge; focus on an objective; consider multiple paths to achieve it; and remove distractions to concentrate on your task.
García and Miralles highlight an unwritten rule of immersing yourself in flow: Stay busy, but not too busy, and follow your ikigai.
To strengthen a person’s emotional resilience, García and Miralles provide an overview of spiritual teachings, including Buddhism and Stoicism, which advocate replacing negative emotions, such as anxiety, ego and anger, with positive ones, such as love, peace and grace; meditation, which helps you recognize what you can and cannot control; and the Japanese concepts ofWabi-sabi and Ichi-go Ichi-e, which emphasize living in the present and accepting the impermanence of the world.
García and Miralles have written extensively about Japan and Japanese culture. In this book, they apply their deep understanding to explain a fundamental principle of that culture. They do so with enthusiasm, wit and kind-heartedness, but run up against a centuries-old problem in describing abstract concepts from other cultures: These concepts are, by their natures, virtually indescribable. They imbed so deeply in their native cultures that, without a profound cultural frame, they remain elusive to non-members of those communities. So, you might read every word of this text and gain, at best, a fuzzy understanding of how you might find your ikigai. But don’t despair; the authors offer myriad processes and techniques aimed at helping you live a healthy and mindful life. If you embrace their advice, your ikigai might likely appear.
Héctor García also wrote The Ikigai Journey; and A Geek in Japan. Francesc Miralles is the author of Love in Lowercase. They are the co-authors of The Book of Ichigo Ichie and Ikigai for Teens. Other out-of-the-mainstream life-advice books include The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson; Atomic Habits by James Clear; and Advice Not Given by Mark Epstein.