Occasionally I receive correspondence from a reader that is so fascinating and useful that I want to share it with a wider audience. I am grateful to John Jay Pelletier, who sent me his book, “If You’re Happy and You Know It Keep It Up. If You’re Not Happy, WHO’s Fault Is It?”
Pelletier, who describes himself as a 75-year-old world traveler, writes about “IKIGAI,” 10 golden rules to happiness distilled from the wisdom of long-living residents of Ogimi, Japan. “IKIGAI,” pronounced “Icky Guy,” is the title of a 2016 book written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. These rules transcend international boundaries – it turns out I have been practicing them without even realizing it! So I can vouch for the validity of their advice.
Here are the 10 rules, followed by my comments:
- Stay active. Don’t ever retire. I have followed this advice religiously. The only grass that grows under my feet is on the golf course. When people ask me about retirement, I tell them I’m going with my boots on.
- Take it slow, one day at a time. I’m not sure I take it slow, but I do go one day at a time. I don’t dwell on the past, rather I focus on today and what I can do to improve
- Don’t fill your stomach; have a good diet. I have always eaten healthy (with a lot of help from my wife Carol Ann for the last 60-plus years.)
- Surround yourself with good friends. I have friends whom I’ve known since grade school, high school and college, friends who started out as business contacts, golfing friends, friends who share my passion for community service, and friends I met last week. They are all important to me.
- Stay in shape; keep moving. I have exercised all my life. It just makes me feel better, gives me energy to work more productively and, I hope, live longer. My philosophy is exercise doesn’t take time; it makes time. Back in the 1960s, I attended Stanford University for three months for its Graduate School of Business Executive Program. Many people in the group were dedicated to running, and they asked me to join them. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Ten marathons later, I’m grateful for their invitation.
- Smile shows a cheerful attitude. I learned years ago that one of the most powerful things you can do to connect with others is to smile at them. Never underestimate the value of a smile. You shouldn’t come to work without a smile . . . and that goes for your personal life too. Maybe that’s why it takes only 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown.
- Reconnect with Mother Nature; get out more. I must admit that I am not really big at camping, biking and so on, but I have spent a great deal of my life outdoors on tennis courts and golf courses, plus running and walking.
- Give thanks for what you have – health, friends and family. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to take time to relax and enjoy time for togetherness. Don’t overschedule yourself. Build some extra time into your day so you can talk to family and friends and genuinely give thanks for being together.
- Live the moment; make it worth remembering. The width of life is as important as the length. This is just a short reminder to all of us working so hard for our living. We can’t let time slip through our fingers without spending some quality time with those who really matter to us. Be sure not to let making a living interfere with having a life.
- Follow your IKIGAI – your dreams and passions. Passion never goes out of fashion. Passion is at the top of the list of the skills you need to excel in any undertaking. There is no substitute for passion. If you don’t have a deep-down, intense, burning desire for what you are doing, there’s no way you’ll be able to work the long, hard hours it takes to become successful. The biggest challenge is not to add years to your life – but passion to your years.
Have you found your IKIGAI? It’s never too late to start on a better path to living. Let these 10 rules put you on a good footing for a more fulfilling life. Don’t count the years; make the years count.
Mackay’s Moral: Happiness is an inside job.