• Sarah Pullen

August book review: Ikigai

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


‘Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years’

(Japanese proverb)


This is a gorgeous read. I have wanted to go to Japan since falling head over heels in love with Japanese art and calligraphy at school. Since then, my love for the traditional Japanese culture has grown and grown and I am so excited to finally be planning a trip to this fascinating country next year.


Anyone who knows me well knows that I also love meditation, positive thinking and yoga. I am a firm believer in following your heart (whilst taking what your head says into account!) and, as I have entered into my 30’s, my self belief and determination to be true to myself has continued to grow.


It is no surprise then that I was keen to learn more about the wonderful Japanese concept of Ikigai. Ikigai means ‘a reason to live’. It is usually used to indicate a source of value in your life, or the things that make life worthwhile. It is essentially the ‘thing that you live for’.


Iki, meaning life and kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.


What do you live for? Not an easy question to answer! I guess what I live for is the thing(s) that gets me out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face, or the thing that gives me excited butterflies in my stomach when I think about it, or that thing that makes me speak at 100 miles an hour because I want to tell everyone all about it as quickly as I possibly can. There are a few things in life that make me feel this way but my soul is most alive when I am surrounded by or creating art. I adore visual art. I adore colour, texture and expression. I love capturing in my own way the things that inspire me each and every day. Painting, drawing and calligraphy are when I find my ‘flow’. When my head clears of anything else (this doesn’t happen all that often!) and I get lost in the moment. Flow is discussed a lot in this book and in essence it is the state in which you find yourself when you are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.


This book is an inspiring and a joyful read. It provides tools on finding your purpose in life and encourages you to throw yourself into your passions and in turn find the thing in which you find your flow. It looks at the lives of those living to over one hundred years in Okinawa and the reasons behind this - social ties, a good diet, regular, gentle exercise, purpose. Don’t expect a book full of philosophy. Expect an easy read which leaves you thinking about the decisions you make, encourages you to find your why and leaves you believing that we are all capable of living a happy and healthy life.


Here’s some of my favourite quotes from the book:


“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”


“...the keys to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (an ikigai), and forming strong social ties”


“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”


“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”


“The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for”


“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell on the future”


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” (Aristotle)


Sarah x


P.s. The book cover is gorgeous.




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