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10 rules from Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

by | Jul 24, 2020 | Books

This book seemed like a good read after I recently finished Viktor Frankl’s classic “A Man’s Search for Meaning”. It has 208 pages, so I figured that I could finish it within a week, before diving into another complex book.

Co-authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles explain Ikigai which is similar to logotherapy in the sense that its aim is the pursuit of a direction or purpose in life.

They tie this in with the world-renowned longevity of Okinawa’s inhabitants. They also discuss the five “blue zones” around the world, where the world’s healthiest people live. Those destinations are now on my travel bucket list.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life can be summarized with the following 10 rules:

Rule 1 – Stay Active, Don’t Retire

I remember when my dad retired after a successful career as an international civil servant. I called him after his retirement party in Jamaica and asked him what he was planning to do now that he retired.

He told me that he would rest for six months or so, before deciding what he would do next. I knew he would not last six months of just relaxing and being “retired”. A couple months after, he told me that he had taken up a teaching role at the University of West Indies.

He is just an example, but I truly believe that it is important to not “retire” but continue to keep yourself busy and active by doing the things that you love. It can also be by discovering new passions.

Stay active and keep growing!

Rule 2 – Take it Slow

Faster is not always better. More apps, more notifications, more emails, more WhatsApp groups.

Yeah, no thanks!

Last year, I had anxiety for the first time in my life. Since then, I make a conscious effort to slow things down, especially in the mornings and on the weekends.

This translates to me trying to not look at my phone for the first hour after I wake up and to regularly disconnect over the weekend.

It’s not easy because, like most people, I love Instagram! But I also like not being anxious and having more grey hair than my 69-year-old dad.

There’s no need to rush, take it slow…

Rule 3 – Don’t Fill Your Stomach

Okinawans swear by hara hachi bu which in English translates to “eat until you are eight parts (out of 10) full”. They are convinced that it is one of the factors that lead to a long life.

I, myself, started intermittent fasting when I moved to Abidjan two years ago after I concluded that we tend to eat too much (and that hotel buffets are the devil). I usually fast 16 hours a day starting at 9pm and eating only after 1pm the next day.

72-hour fast with Zero fasting app

Last weekend, I completed a 72-hour fast that I tracked with the Zero fasting app. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be as I stopped feeling hungry after 24 hours. This was the final proof that I needed to convince myself that I really don’t need to eat three times a day.

Listen, I am not a doctor and I am not saying that you should fast either. You should do what works for you and keeps you healthy. Just keep in mind that you probably don’t need to eat as much as you do.

Follow hara hachi bu and don’t fill your stomach.

Rule 4 – Surround Yourself with Good friends

You want to have people around you who you can trust and grow with. People that give you good advice and always want the best for you.

It’s also ok to stop being friends with some of them if you realize that you are not on the same page anymore.

In fact, I am going to unfriend some people on Facebook right now…

Just find the right friends and keep them close.

Rule 5 – Get in Shape for Your Next Birthday

The global COVID-19 pandemic threw my working out routine off. I went from boxing twice a week, going to the gym five times a week and doing yoga on Wednesdays to working from home and eating bread all day long…

Thankfully that didn’t last for too long and I am back to working out regularly.

Wherever you are now, get in shape for your next birthday. Start small and make it a habit. You will sleep better, and your body will thank you for it.

Rule 6 – Smile

There’s not much to say about this one so will just leave this photo of me smiling here…

Rule 7 – Reconnect with Nature

I have always loved living in cities! I have lived in Paris, Nairobi, Accra and now Abidjan, and love the hustle and bustle of big cities.

That being said, there is something incredible about being out in nature. There is a calming effect of being in a serene environment (hopefully sans mosquitoes).

I love being on the water which is probably a result of years of rowing. Rowers know how great it is when you are practicing in the early morning and you feel the boat gliding on the water.

Find what works for you and reconnect with nature.

Rule 8 – Give Thanks

Whether it’s with a gratitude journal or simply with your attitude, just be grateful!

Rule 9 – Live in the Moment

Yes, I know that you are tired of hearing this, but you should really try meditation. There are a lot of apps and programs that can help you start meditating regularly. Or just sit somewhere calm and concentrate on your breath et voila, you are already meditating!

Trust me, it really helps you slow things down and be in the moment.

You should also turn off all of the notifications on your phone. There are so many things competing for your attention and a lot of them come with notifications: emails, direct messages, snaps, reminders, etc.

Turn off the noise and live in the moment!

Rule 10 – Follow Your Ikigai

You need to find your Ikigai (or passion/mission) first, but once you do, give it your all!

If, like me, you haven’t found it yet, that’s ok too. Just start the enriching journey of finding it today.

Here is a list of all the books that I have read so far in 2020.

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