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

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • There is a tension between what is good for someone and what they want to do. This is because people, especially older people, like to do things as they’ve always done them. The problem is that when the brain develops ingrained habits, it doesn’t need to think anymore. Things get done quickly and efficiently on automatic pilot, often in a very advantageous way. This creates a tendency to stick to routines, and the only way of breaking these is to confront the brain with new information.
  • The central premise of this stress-reduction method is focusing on the self: noticing our responses, even if they are conditioned by habit, in order to be fully conscious of them. In this way, we connect with the here and now and limit thoughts that tend to spiral out of control.
  • 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.
  • “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
  • Limits itself to the patient’s instincts.    Also deals with spiritual realities.    Is fundamentally incompatible with faith.    Is compatible with faith.    Seeks to reconcile conflicts and satisfy impulses and instincts.    Seeks to help the patient find meaning in his life and satisfy his moral principles.
  • “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
  • We all have the capacity to do noble or terrible things. The side of the equation we end up on depends on our decisions, not on the condition in which we find ourselves.
  • In Frankl’s view, the man not only didn’t need all those years of psychoanalysis, he also couldn’t even really be considered a “patient” in need of therapy. He was simply someone in search of a new life’s purpose; as soon as he found it, his life took on deeper meaning.
  • In the West, we tend to believe that what we think influences how we feel, which in turn influences how we act. In contrast, Morita therapy focuses on teaching patients to accept their emotions without trying to control them, since their feelings will change as a result of their actions.
  • Morita therapy is not meant to eliminate symptoms; instead it teaches us to accept our desires, anxieties, fears, and worries, and let them go.
  • “If we try to get rid of one wave with another, we end up with an infinite sea.”
  • “To be able to concentrate for a considerable amount of time is essential to difficult achievement.”
  • Bertrand Russell expressed a similar idea when he said, “To be able to concentrate for a considerable amount of time is essential to difficult achievement.”
  • Our brains can take in millions of bits of information but can only actually process a few dozen per second. When we say we’re multitasking, what we’re really doing is switching back and forth between tasks very quickly. Unfortunately, we’re not computers adept at parallel processing. We end up spending all our energy alternating between tasks, instead of focusing on doing one of them well.
  • If we’re not truly being challenged, we get bored and add a layer of complexity to amuse ourselves.
  • Write all of them on a piece of paper, 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?
  • Art, in all its forms, is an ikigai that can bring happiness and purpose to our days. Enjoying or creating beauty is free, and something all human beings have access to.
  • Never Stop Learning “You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” —T. H. White, The Once and Future King

A Declaration from the Town Where People Live Longest
At 80 I am still a child.
When I come to see you at 90,
send me away to wait until I’m 100.
The older, the stronger;
let us not depend too much on our children as we age.
If you seek long life and health,
you are welcome in our village,
where you will be blessed by nature,
and together we will discover the secret to longevity.
-April 23, 1993 Ogimi Federation of Senior Citizen Clubs

  • It might seem basic, but in our modern lives, we can spend days without raising our arms above our ears. Think about it: our arms are down when using computers, when using smartphones, when reading books. One of the few times we raise our hands over our heads is when reaching for something in a cupboard or closet, while our ancestors were raising their hands over their heads all the time when gathering things from trees.
  • “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”

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