The Simple Secret to a Long and Happy Life

October 08, 2019 2 Comments

Rory Coulter


The poet Mary Oliver famously wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”If you can’t answer this question, you’re not alone. But finding the answer may just be the secret to living a long and happy life.


Bronnie Ware, a former palliative care nurse and bestselling author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, says the most common regret people have is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” 


Why do so many of us end up living a life that feels false? James Clear sheds some light: 

“If you never draw a line in the sand and clarify what is really important to you, then you'll end up doing what's expected of you. When you don't have a clear purpose driving you forward, you default to doing what other people approve of. We're not sure what we really want, and so we do what we think other people want.”

To have courage and live a life true to yourself, you need clarity of purpose. Easier said than done, but extremely worthwhile. According to Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and bestselling author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived The Longest, having clear purpose is something the healthiest people in the world have in common. He shares: “The Okinawans call it ‘Ikigai’ and the Nicoyans call it ‘plan de vida;’ for both it translates to ‘why I wake up in the morning.’ Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

Want to find your Ikigai? Ask yourself these four questions:

What do I love?


What am I good at?


What can I earn from?


What does the world need?

Don’t know the answers yet? Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, bestselling authors of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, share ten rules to help you find your Ikigai:

1. Stay active; don’t retire.

2. Take it slow.

3. Don’t fill your stomach.

4. Surround yourself with good friends.

5. Get in shape for your next birthday.

6. Smile.

7. Reconnect with nature.

8. Give thanks.

9. Live in the moment. 

10. Follow your Ikigai.


For the record, Mary Oliver’s answer was simply to reconnect with nature and share its wonder. Woman after our own heart!

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2 Responses

James Taylor
James Taylor

April 06, 2020

This is incredibly helpful. I’m 73. I just wish I had heard this advice 50 years ago. Maybe I heard it, but just didn’t listen. I think it took until I was in my 50s, before I began thinking about this. I’ve improved and am now doing mostly those things that make me happy. I can say from my experience, there will always be expectations, but most are self imposed. Try to ease some of these shackles and find your loves. A person that brings you up when you’re down and who makes you smile and feel happy. Find a passion and pursue it in your own way. Observe the goodness of people and nature. Find a cause—there are so many worthy ones—and make a small difference. Learn, smile and wake up each day deciding to Be happy. Regardless of how long you live, you will have lived well.

James Taylor
James Taylor

February 07, 2020

This is incredibly helpful. I’m 73. I just wish I had heard this advice 50 years ago. Maybe I heard it, but just didn’t listen. I think it took until I was in my 50s, before I began thinking about this. I’ve improved and am now doing mostly those things that make me happy. I can say from my experience, there will always be expectations, but most are self imposed. Try to ease some of these shackles and find your loves. A person that brings you up when you’re down and who makes you smile and feel happy. Find a passion and pursue it in your own way. Observe the goodness of people and nature. Find a cause—there are so many worthy ones—and make a small difference. Learn, smile and wake up each day deciding to Be happy. Regardless of how long you live, you will have lived well.

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