How To Ikigai

How to ikigai

How to ikigai by Tim Tamashiro

“I am writing this book to help you understand what Ikigai is. More importantly, my intention is to help you figure out what your Ikigai is. To bring to light, you must become an Ikigai researcher…

I’d like to delight you in this book by sharing thoughts and ideas that I hope you find helpful on your journey toward discovering your purpose. My deepest desire is that, with my ramblings, you can realize the benefits of self-exploration. Within this book is a treasure map to help you find your ikigai. All you have to do is follow the clues.”  

How to ikigai is a book about finding ‘life purpose’,  Tim Tamashiro introduces the Japanese concept of ikigai. He shares that his ikigai is to delight people, and with this book, he aims to delight people by helping them learn more about ikigai; to find their purpose in life. In this review, we will see how Tim describes ikigai as he explains its origin and how people can achieve their ikigai.

The Ikigai Map

“We’ve been told that when you get a good education, you get a good job, and then you live a good life. But there is more. Follow the ikigai map and you will see for yourself.”

These directions are deceptively simple, but they take work to understand and put into action. The good news is that the work you put into following these directions will result in immediate rewards.”

Tim presents an ikigai map which consists of: doing what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be rewarded for; which is based on Marc Winn’s Ikigai Venn diagram. Tim’s perspective of ikigai is more of a Western interpretation as he doesn’t explore the Japanese perspective in depth. 

He divides his ikigai theory into two parts: half ikigai and full ikigai. 

“Ikigai comes in two parts. They are halfI Ikigai and full Ikigai. Half ikigai focuses on you: What you love and what you are good at? Full ikigai shows you the full cycle of Ikigai: seeing how doing what you love, what you were good at, provides for the world and flows rewards back to you. As soon as you commit to your half ikigai, you will begin to see benefits. Your half ikigai will bring you clearer understanding of yourself and you can begin your work.

Eventually, you will begin to understand that ikigai is more enjoyable when you share it with the world. That's when the magic starts to happen. You'll be on the path to realizing your full Ikigai, and your work will be easy to do as following a star in the sky.”

As Tim mentions: “When you start doing what you love and what you’re good at, the benefits are immediate. Do what you love and do what you’re good at as often as possible. That’s the first half of ikigai.”

Tim’s idea of “Half ikigai” is more like a starting point on finding one’s ikigai, but as someone who has researched ikigai I don’t agree with Tim’s interpretation that ikigai can be defined or measured as half or full. Japanese don't perceive ikigai in this way. Any ikigai  source can make a person feel satisfied. As ikigai is individualistic, anything that creates a sense of purpose or life satisfaction can be considered ikigai. 

The Origins of Ikigai

“Ikigai is an ancient philosophy created by the sages of Okinawa. Okinawa provided the philosophy concept and word ikigai.” 

“Only Okinawans and few Japanese outside of the islands have been the lucky beneficiaries of its lesson”

Like Héctor García, author of Ikigai - The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,  Tim claims ikigai is an ancient philosophy that originated from Okinawa, which is a romanticised misconception. My discussions with Japan’s lending authority on ikigai, Professor Akihiro Hasegawa of Toyo Eiwa University revealed that ikigai is not a word or concept that originates from Okinawa. Japanese don’t relate the word to longevity, nor consider it as a philosophy. As a non-Japanese studying the concept I tend to, but Japanese themselves don’t.

For the Japanese people, ikigai is a common word, a term that they grew up with and is not a word they would consider special. For many Japanese their hobby can be their ikigai. And if it is something that goes deeper than that they usually don’t talk about. For many Japanese ikigai is something private, often something that just comes naturally to them.  

Waking Up With a Purpose

“When you put your ikigai into action, you’ll wake up each morning with greater purpose. You’ll awaken to each day full of wonder. Ikigai has your map to wonder.”

“If you experience life as a meandering, drunken stumble that leads you forward, left and right, then backward, remain vigilant and keep a lookout for the signals in your life. They will provide you with direction. They are easier if you know these two things: what do you love to do and what you are good at? Your answers are the first steps you’ll need to find your Ikigai.”

Tim introduces three realities to consider when discovering one’s ikigai:

  1. You are not your job. You are your work - Tim differentiates job from work: a job is a paid position of regular employment whereas work is an activity involving mental or physical effort to achieve a purpose or result. 
  2. “Take your pleasure seriously.” - Tim focuses on what you love to do and what you are good at as the keys to finding ikigai. 
  3. Follow the clues. When you find things you enjoy, then do them. They will lead you to more ikigai - Tim recommends starting a list of things that people love to do and what they’re good at and taking action to do something from the list each day.

Tim plays these western misconceptions of ikigai in his book a little too hard. Your ikigai doesn’t have to be something you're good at. It doesn't even have to be something you love. Your ikigai are the things you feel make life worth living. The things that give you the motivation to keep going. Even challenges and life's struggles can become sources of ikigai.

It is in times of trouble where one understands what they truly value in life. Limiting your ikigai to only pursuing the things that you love will keep your experience of ikigai shallow. As life is a journey and as we gather more life experiences, we tend to understand ourselves better: and often discover that our challenges, or overcoming them, make our life worth living.

Ikigai and Positive Psychology

“Positive psychology and Ikigai are ways to assist you to be more. When you study and implement Ikigai and positive psychology, it makes you feel more optimistic about life. You feel like accomplishing something special.”

Tim says that ikigai has powerful connections to positive psychology; and that studying ikigai and positive psychology makes people feel more optimistic about life.

Ikigai has certainly become a subject of study for me. And I would agree that it ties in closely with positive psychology. Unfortunately, this isn't something Tim explores in his book. He presents his half and full ikigai concepts which is just an reinterpretation of the “Ikigai Venn diagram”

“Your Ikigai is an action. Full ikigai is an action that has universal benefits. Your full ikigai provides benefits to you and the world around you. You serve others with your Ikgiai, but you feel the rewards of providing it.”

Ikigai does respond to action. Neuroscientist and author of The Little Book of Ikigai, Ken Mogi describes ikigai as being “proactive”. However, the idea of your full ikigai being something that serves the world is again a western romanticised falsehood.  

Ikigai is found in your social world with your intimate family relationship and in your personal community. It includes finding a place that allows you to be yourself, where you are fully accepted by the people who define you or who are important to you. Ikigai is not about being rewarded for taking action. Ikigai has more to do with intrinsic motivation and a sense of belonging. 

The New Habits of Ikigai

In his book, How To Ikigai, Tim introduces his new habits of ikigai. Below is a summary.

  1. Set a goal to do thirty days of half Ikigai.
  2. Experiment and start a side hustle. Make time daily to do what you love and do what you’re good at.
  3. Set a time to do daily mindfulness meditation.
  4. Be mindful of how you’re feeling. Keep a journal or notes on your phone.
  5. At the end of the thirty days, how does ikigai feel?

Following Tim’s recommended habits would certainly benefit you, but associating ikigai to a side hustle is a mistake. It is important not to make ikigai out to be something that involves a pay off or reward. And, again limiting your ikigai to doing only things you are good at or love is a mistake. Ikigai can be found in the midst of our daily activities, in the simple pleasures that life offers us. We don’t need to start a side hustle or even meditate to experience ikigai.

A more appropriate title for Tim’s book might have been “How to do what you love and what you’re good at!”. Ikigai is not a verb. It is a noun. You can have multiple sources of ikigai: relationships, hobbies, memories and things to look forward to, but there is no how to ikigai other than taking the time to recognise and appreciate the things in your life that make it worth living. Sometimes doing that is not always easy in this chaotic world, but it will make you feel that life is worth living.

Tim Tamashiro

Tim Tamashiro is a Canadian jazz singer, radio broadcaster, speaker, and author passionate about ikigai. He believes that his ikigai is to “delight” and shares his ikigai with people he encounters, whether giving a speech, singing, or telling a story.

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