Are you all up for ‘New Year, New Me’ motto? Have you been striving to find a perfect ‘work-life’ balance? Then Ikigai, the age-old Japanese concept is what you are looking for. Award-winning self-help writer and author of IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Francesc Miralles, who was in Kerala for the 5th edition of Kerala Literature Festival held at Kozhikode, spoke about the importance of this Japanese concept which means ‘The reason for being’ is the reason for a happy and long life. According to him, finding the ‘Why’ of life is the most important step towards Ikigai.
“This is a book to read, think and analyse,” explained Miralles, who co-authored this book with Héctor García. He met Garcia while in search of his ikigai and learnt about the Japanese island of Okinawa, where Ikigai has its origins. Okinawa is popularly known for the largest population of centenarians in the world.
Ikigai is a combination of the Japanese words iki, which means life, and gai which signifies value or worth, together it means finding joy in life through purpose. Talking about his experience of writing the book, the Barcelona-born author said, “Ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search. According to those born on Okinawa, the island with the most centenarians in the world, their personal ikigai is the reason that motivates them to get up each morning.”
He added, “Having a clearly defined ikigai definitely brings satisfaction, happiness and meaning to the life. One surprising thing you notice, living in Japan, is how active people remain even after they retire. Actually, in Japan, people never really retire—they keep doing what they love until their health allows.”
When quizzed if life wouldn’t become monotonous, the author of Love in Lowercase said, “You have a life that you love and get the opportunity to do what you like, if one understands this concept then every day is a miracle. To reach this point, you must know what is important for you. Your focus should be on what makes you happy instead of the wrong things. One must find what can be the centre of your life, you can have a simple and wonderful life.”
Sharing his experience while researching about the book and reaching the community elders, Miralles shared, “It was difficult at first, as in Japanese culture senior citizens are considered the highest authority. So we had to take permission from many people within the community. But once we got into the community, we realised that everyone was happy there as they led a simple life there.”
He exerted on the fact that the lack of internet connectivity nurtured the deeper human connections. He added, “During the research for the book while interviewing the elders of the Okinawa society, what I learnt is that you can lead a simple life doing the same thing every day and still be happy. It could be waking up early, working in the sun and bonding with your friends.”
Elaborating on the subject and its significance in today’s time, the journalist-turned-author said, “There are two moments in life where IKIGAI is important; one is at retirement and the other is when one is about to decide your future, hence, the work is relevant to youngsters as well as those in old age.”
Emphasising on the key elements of the philosophy, Maralles shared, “Your ikigai will keep changing until you find what truly makes you happy. There is no permanent ikigai. I have changed my ikigai many a time too.”
He has recently released a new novel called Ichigo Ichie, focusing on the belief that what we are experiencing now will not be repeated. Currently, he is working on a Spanish novel for youngsters called The Five continents of Love.