The Little Book of Ikigai: The essential Japanese way to finding your purpose in life.
Written By Adam Drake
4 min read
Ikigai is a Japanese mind-set that is commonly understood as ‘the reason to get up in the morning’. It is at the heart of the Japanese’s longevity in life, their appreciation of sensory beauty and their inherent mindfulness.
It is about appreciating all the small things in life. The sunlight coming through the window in the morning, the smell of fresh coffee or a child’s laugh. It also applies to much deeper convictions such as finding true friendships, life-long mastery of one’s skill or a balanced health.
Summary of main ideas
In his book Ken explains that there are five pillars to Ikigai:
Pillar 1: Starting small
The Japanese word Kodawari is key to Ikigai. It means ‘taking care of the small details’. Start by appreciating the small things. By doing this you can get fully involved in the process. Approach what you are doing with a youthfulness of mind and have commitment and passion for what you are doing. These are key to finding your Ikigai.
Pillar 2: Releasing yourself
Ikigai is about getting into a state of flow. You can get so involved in the process you forget about yourself and time and you become truly at one with what you are doing.
Pillar 3: Harmony and sustainability
When in a state of Ikigai you have fully accepted yourself and your purpose in life. You are at peace and live in sustained harmony with your environment. You are living in harmony with the community around you. As Marcus Aurelius put it - ‘He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the world’.
Pillar 4: The joy of little things
If you are focused on the reward or the goal of what you are doing then you are not in a state of Ikigai. Ken gives many examples throughout his book of people who are said to be in the state of Ikigai.
One example is a man who sources Tuna for the finest sushi restaurants in Tokyo. He rises very early every morning to get to the fish market so he can inspect the latest fish. For some this would be a real chore but this man enjoys all the little things of this process. The fresh morning air, speaking with people at the market, inspecting the color of the fish, the smell in the market.
The little things in the process are where you will find the joy once you are in a state of Ikigai.
Pillar 5: Being in the here and now
Immerse yourself in the here and now without asking for any immediate reward or recognition is an integral part of the concept of Ikigai. You paint a picture which no one will see, make music that no one will hear or write a story no one will read. If you do these things being in the here and now and enjoying the process you are said to be in a state of Ikigai.
Ikigai can appear in many different places in your life. When you are cleaning your house, walking with a friend or honing your craft.
Whatever you end up doing in life it's becoming more and more apparent that enjoying the process is key to a fulfilled life. If you are putting all your efforts into something just for the reward at the end it will be very difficult and probably won’t last long. If you are focused only on the peak of the mountain you will miss all the beauty along the way.
Starting small is also key. I think if you approach this with the question ‘What is my Ikigai?’ then you will become overwhelmed. By starting small and becoming aware and mindful of when you are doing something during your day that brings about a state of flow, you will start along the path of discovering what is your Ikigai.
Some good further reading/watching/listening
Ken Mogi has presented a variety of TEDx Talks. This one is Ken’s view on Artificial Intelligence
Where to get it
Buy The Little Book of Ikigai from Book Depository
Buy The Little Book of Ikigai from Amazon
Listen to The Little Book of Ikigai on Audible
About the author
Ken Mogi is a Japanese Scientist. He is currently a senior researcher at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories. His mission in life is to solve the ‘so-called mind-brain problem’. You can read more on his personal blog where ge records his activities and musings.
September 20 2018
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