Are you a carrot, egg or coffee bean? As I read the last few chapters of Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, I was reminded of a parable, about perspective, adversity and how you can shape or be shaped by the things that are happening around you.
The parable goes roughly like this, a carrot, egg, and coffee bean are put in separate pots of boiling water. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after being through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they changed the water.
The coffee beans both influenced and were influenced by their environment and therefore became something new. Which are you?
When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
To build resilience into our lives, we shouldn’t fear adversity, because each setback is an opportunity for growth. As someone who currently resides in a region coined the caffeine coast, here’s to being coffee beans!
Definitions are important and I want to further discuss resiliency, antifragility, and 10 rules to live by from the book Ikigai.
Pursue your passion no matter what. Never give up, even when the cards seem stacked against you or when faced with one hurdle after another.
It is more than perseverance it is an outlook we cultivate to stay focused on the important things in life rather than what is most urgent*, and to keep ourselves from being carried away by negative emotions. Sooner or later we all face difficult moments and the way we navigate these moments can make a huge difference to our quality of life. Proper training for our mind, body, and emotional resilience is essential for confronting life’s ups and downs.
Fall seven time, rise eight. -Japanese proverb
*Note: The Eisenhower Matrix can be used to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance.
What happens every time you get broken? You become anti-fragile, Nassim Taleb, author of Antifragile, uses the word anti-fragile to describe those that get stronger when harmed; and resilient for those that are able to withstand harm without weakening.
Resiliency is strong enough and good enough. But antifragility goes beyond that. While resilient stays the same, anti-fragile gets better.
Any lasting positive change we want in our lives will require antifragility because change is painful. It’s going to break you. But remember that what breaks you only makes you better. Be unstoppable!
Antifragility is about getting better as you get kicked around. Like a muscle that tears, regenerates, and gets stronger. Getting better through our struggles. We should all crave disorder.
“We all fall on our face until we don’t. Praise makes us feel good, but we improve with criticism.”
A bit more on resiliency from one of my favorite books, Stumbling on Happiness:
“I am so much better off physically, financially, mentally, and in almost every way.” (JW from Texas)
“It was a glorious experience.” (MB from Louisiana)
“I didn’t appreciate others nearly as much as I do now.” (CR from California)
Who are these people and what happened prior to these declarations?
JW, Jim Wright, former Speaker of the US House of Representative, made his remarks after being forced to resign after committing sixty-nine ethics violations.
MB, Moreese Bickham, a former inmate made his remarks upon being released from Louisiana Penitentiary where he spent 37 years defending himself against a Ku Klux Klansmen who’d shot him.
CR, Christopher Reeve, made his remarks after being after an equestrian accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.
While most of us will experience trauma in our lifetimes only a fraction of us will develop post-traumatic pathology. Why? We are all descendants of those who have survived, and resiliency is the most common observed outcome following a traumatic event. Without further ado…
10 Rules to Live by
1. Stay active; don’t retire.
Those who give up the things they love doing and do well lose their purpose in life. That’s why it’s so important to keep doing things of value, making progress, bringing beauty or utility to others, helping, and shaping the world around you, even after your “official” professional activity has ended.
2. Take it slow.
Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to the quality of life. As the old saying goes, “Walk slowly and you’ll go far. When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.”
If you are in a hurry it incites that you are not in control and under stress. By taking things slow it means you are more mindful of your decisions, in control and more often than not doing the things you want to do.
3. Don’t fill your stomach.
“Less is more when it comes to eating for long life, too. According to the 80 percent rule, in order to stay healthier longer, we should eat a little less than our hunger demands instead of stuffing ourselves.”
腹八分目に医者いらず – Hara hachi bun me ni isha irazu.
This Japanese proverb translates to ‘Eating to only 80% full keeps the doctors away’. You mostly hear Japanese just say ‘hara hachi bu” towards the end or on completion of eating a meal to indicate they feel almost full.
Think of hara hachi bun me as mantra that represents a form of wisdom-based calorie restriction that the Japanese have practiced for hundreds of years.
4. Surround yourself with good friends.
“Friends are the best medicine, there for confiding worries over a good chat, sharing stories that brighten your day, getting advice, having fun, dreaming . . . in other words, living.”
People who isolate themselves can’t have ikigai – meaning or purpose. Ikigai is only found in interpersonal relationships. – Ishikawa Tatsuzō
The above quote highlights the importance of interpersonal relationships. Without relationships and friendships, we can’t experience connection, intimacy or love, nor can we share our joys, hopes, struggles, and fears.
When we consider that we now spend more of our time alone looking at screens than we do spending time with our friends, this rule acts as a reminder of the importance of friendship and all its benefits. Instead of looking through a social media feed, call an old friend and make a date to catch up.
5. Get in shape for your next birthday.
Water moves; it is at its best when it flows fresh and doesn’t stagnate. The body you move through in life needs a bit of daily maintenance to keep it running for a long time. Plus, exercise releases hormones that make us feel happy.
A cheerful attitude is not only relaxing – it also helps make friends. It’s good to recognize the things that aren’t so great, but we should never forget what a privilege it is to be in the here and now in a world so full of possibilities.
7. Reconnect with nature
Though most people live in cities these days, human beings are made to be part of the natural world. We should return to it often to recharge our batteries.
Are you familiar with the Japanese word shinrin-yoku. It translates to ‘forest bathing’ and means connecting with nature using the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. It is a mindfulness practice to help you reconnect with nature so that you can rejuvenate the body and give the mind a moment of peace.
8. Give thanks
To your ancestors, to nature, which provides you with the air you breathe and the food you eat, to your friends and family, to everything that brightens your days and makes you feel lucky to be alive. Spend a moment every day giving thanks, and you’ll watch your stockpile of happiness grow.
9. Live in the moment
Stop regretting the past and fearing the future. Today is all you have. Make the most of it. Make it worth remembering.
From the moment we wake up to the time we fall asleep we are constantly running an internal dialogue with ourselves. Our mind jumps from one worry to another and we forgot to be aware, present, mindful and alive in each moment.
10. Follow your ikigai
There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, make it your mission is to discover it.
Cheers to living a long life and pursuing your passion!