In “Ikigai, Japanese Secrets for a Long and Happy Life”, the authors list seven conditions to enter the flow of ikigai, even if they underline that there is no magical recipe for that. However, to reach our ikigai requires an indispensable ingredient: our capacity to enter that flow, that will make us obtain the “optimal experience.”
Ikigai is a Japanese term defining a mindful life, following what makes you happy and brings joy, preserving your mind and body in a young shape. It is described as the purpose of life or the reason for being (raison d’etre), the reason why we wake up every morning and start the day full of hope.
Ikigai and its Proven Benefits
At first glance, you might tend to think that it is simple to achieve this state because it is a more straightforward way to live. This couldn’t be more wrong.
Ikigai is a way of life, not just a one-month diet that does wonders.
It requires you to think positively, behave nicely within your community, eat healthy and exercises daily. There is not only one type of exercise for keeping your mind healthy throughout the time, though. Tai chi, for example, is a massively spread Chinese martial art both in Japan and around the world. The same applies to Yoga coming from Indian teachings.
Helping others, putting your own desire below other’s needs, practicing hobbies and spending your free time with good friends, are essential aspects of ikigai that influence the quality of your life.
Various studies have proven the benefits that principles of ikigai have upon our lives. For example, the published results of the research of Kenji Iida, Senior Visiting Researcher at Keio Research Institute at SFC, and Yuko Oguma, Associate Professor at Sports Medicine Research Center from Keio University, indicated that the longer the tai chi experience, the higher the flow experience.
Besides, the Journal of Epidemiology published the results of one study of Kimiko Tomioka, Norio Kurumatani, Hiroshi Hosoi, affiliates at Nara Prefectural Health Research Center from Nara Medical University, in which they discovered that not only having hobbies and purpose in life may extend longevity, but also healthy life expectancy among community-dwelling older adults.
7 Is the Magic Number
The seven conditions previously mentioned that you need to fulfill to enter the flow of ikigai proffered by researcher Owen Schaffer are the following:
- Knowing what to do.
- Knowing how to do.
- Knowing how well you are doing.
- Knowing where to go (where navigation is involved)
- Following ambitious challenges
- Using our high perceived skills
- Nothing to distract in our process.
As you can see, entering the flow of your ikigai is easier said than done. Though not impossible, it requires own discipline. If the first six steps represent personal actions, the outcome depending mostly on us, we cannot say the same about the seventh one.
Not being distracted in the era of technology is a difficult chore. When notifications of email, facebook, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (you name it) pop-up frantically on our laptops and phones, the only way to get away is to create our own private space.
But how could we achieve that? Is it even possible? I’d say yes. And even if it might sound difficult, once you settle some habits, it’ll get easier to lose yourself in your work.
Did I Say Seven is Magical?
So from now on, before starting your writing, drawing, analysis, research, calculations or whatever else you are doing, remember the following seven steps for getting away from distractions.
1. Choose a private space to work. Not your bedroom, certainly, if you don’t want to feel sleepy every time you see your bed. If possible, not your living room, or at least try to keep it ordered. The mess around us affects our concentration and recreates the same chaos in our mind. And most important, the quieter, the better. Nature always works best. (if you live in the city and don’t have a calmer place to go, don’t stop reading, wait for point 4).
2. Turn your phone on MUTE. Yes, on MUTE. Not vibrations. When you work, you need to focus on the task at hand. No story would have come out right if I was answering my mum’s phone call or replying to my emails in the middle of my writings. Multitasking is not a productive way of working. It’s a proven fact. Moreover, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, authors of the mentioned book, underline that our brain associates the vibrations of the phone or notification of an email with the threat of a hunting animal. Would you want to be interrupted by a hungry lion while working on that last project of yours?
3. Turn your phone WI-FI off. Recent studies showed that a high percentage of millennials spend on their phones 5 or more hours per day. And I guess you imagine that they haven’t just chat with their friend by SMS (a.k.a paid messaging system) or spoken at the phone for 5 hours, right? Interviewed by CNBC, Larry Rosen, psychology professor at California State University, revealed that most of us check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if we have no alerts or notifications, because of our fear of missing out. So next time you want to concentrate on a mission entirely, refrain yourself from checking your mobile by turning off the internet. Personal little secret: it’s working.
4. Use noise-canceling headphones. As I was mentioning in the first place, the best way to enter your flow of ikigai is to have a peaceful place where you can work. But it’s true that not all of us are blessed with such a luxury. Myself, for sure not. Neighbors screamings, cars honking, buildings works, garbage trucks taking glass bottles for recycling, all of this happen on my street. To isolate myself from all disturbances, I activate my Bose noise-canceling headphones, and suddenly, I am transported into another world. Count in some Japanese piano music, and I’m already back in Marui Rooftop Garden in one of those warm, breezy Tokyo evenings.
5. Let people know about your intentions. That’s a critical habit you need to start having. Always, but always, let your family and peers know that you don’t want to be disturbed for X hours. You can be in the quietest place possible, with all your notifications and internet turned off and the best music and headphones; if people come and go continuously to ask for your advice, about the weather or whatever else, your flow of ikigai will fly far away. And do you know how long it takes to come back? About 25 minutes! So please. Just let people know you want to work, and you don’t want to be disturb. Don’t worry, who loves you, understands you.
6. Verify your work device. I must admit that this one will make your day a nightmare if you don’t take care of it. Been there, done that. Why…? Because if something goes wrong with your laptop or whatever device you’re using, either you’ll have to find other activity until it cools down or to search for the problem, which can take a tremendous amount of time. In any case, you’ll be out of your concentration bubble, and there it goes your flow of ikigai.
7. Have a behavior pattern for starting your work. Now that you have prepared your workplace, start your assignments with a habit of your choice. I usually like to listen to Japanese piano music for 10 minutes, close my eyes and concentrate on my breath. You could also lighten up a candle, read a poem of your favorite author or say a mantra. “I believe in myself. I am capable of whatever I set my mind too” works very well. You just need to feel relaxed and comfortable when you do it.
So, what’re your next plans? Practice, enter the flow of your ikigai and get the life you want! (and come back and let me know how it worked).
Do you practice already some of these habits or have others? I would love to hear about them.
Following my ikigai
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Originally published at anabriard.com on October 9, 2018.