Book review: Trouver son ikigaï by Christie Vanbremeersch

Looking to take care of yourself, expand your horizons, and practice your French? Christie Vanbremeersch’s book ‘Trouver son ikigaï: Vivre de ce qui nous passionne’ (2018) will help you do just that. This book stands out in its accessibility, honesty, wit, and general good energy.

I’ve been a fan of self-help and personal development books for a while, so much so that some of them start to repeat themselves.

For me, ‘Trouver son ikigaï‘ stands out from the crowd, providing a fresh perspective on finding one’s purpose in life. I highly recommend it, and here’s why and what you can expect.

What is ikigai?

Lorsque l’on cherche, on est dans un entre-deux inconfortable, mais aussi dans un entredeux d’ouverture. 1.

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘ikigai’, it’s a Japanese word indicating the idea of ‘happiness in living’. It represents the intersection of several different areas of one’s life you can be paid for:
1. What you love?
2. What you are good at?
3. What the world needs?
4. What?

We apply it in the Western world particularly to finding your calling in work, but it is not restricted to the professional sphere. Imagined as a four-circle Venn diagram, the intersection of these four areas is where you could find your true joy in living.

What to expect in this book

Le postulat de ce livre est la volonté de croire que chacun d’entre nous a quelque part, disponible, un appel, un métier, une passion, qui lui permette de vivre décemment. » 2.

Vanbremeersch starts with a brief introduction to ikigai and then proceeds with succinct structured chapters. Each chapter introduces a concept (i.e., Connect to what brings you joy), a suggestion of an exercise, followed by an interview with someone Vanbremeersch considers is living their ikigai.

One of my favorite exercises is to make a list of five questions that intrigue you each night, to allow your curiosity to be your guide forward.

Some of her example questions range from the very simple;
“What will my daughter’s chocolate cake taste like?”
-to the very broad
“How will this new professional year play out for me?”. 3.

For the interviews, she found people from a variety of professions to discuss how each person discovered and is living their purpose. The interviews help to ground her writing in concrete examples, showing how real people put into practice similar principles as those discussed in her chapters. The interviews also help to understand how each individual created and navigated their own unique way into their career, showing there is no blueprint for everyone
but trial, error, and intuition.

J’ai pensé que j’étais la seule à pouvoir raconter les histoires que j’avais à raconter. » 4.

The information Vanbremeersch presents is:

  • to the point, and
  • in a writing style that exudes positive energy and optimism.

As a non-native speaker of French, I also really enjoyed her language play and obvious enthusiasm. She remains intelligent while including an effervescence of wordplay, personal anecdotes, and warmth. These are qualities that I typically associate more with English writing but find refreshing to read in French.

This book deserves reflection.
You could read it in one sitting.
But, it’s structured so that it’s easy to read a chapter, reflect on it, and come back to the book a bit later.

As a final note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

Notre art, c’est d’abord notre vie ! »

About the author

La plupart du temps, je suis obligée de reconnaître que la vie a bien plus d’imagination que moi. » 5.

Christie Vanbremeersch is a writer, coach, and trainer who works with creativity in many forms. She’s written and collaborated on many books to date, including most recently:

In ‘Trouver son ikigaï‘ Vanbremeersch focuses on her understanding and application of the term. She takes the concept and appropriates it in her own unique way to help guide readers on their exploration.

Have you read this book? In French or in English? Are you a fan of self-help and personal development books? Let us know in the comments.

1 Christie Vanbremeersch, Trouver son ikigaï: Vivre de ce qui nous passionne (Paris : Éditions First, 2018), 19.
2 Vanbremeersch, Trouver son ikigaï, 10.
3 Vanbremeersch, Trouver son ikigaï, 36.
4 Vanbremeersch, Trouver son ikigaï,137
5 Vanbremeersch, Trouver son ikigaï, 159.
6 Vanbremeersch, Trouver son ikigaï, 52.

Image credits:
1: Ben Freeman via Flickr (diagram of Ikigai)
2: photo of book: copyright Jessica Sarlandie
3: Photo by Anne Nygård via Unsplash


About the Contributor

Jessica Sarlandie

An American expat living in Lyon, France, I studied and taught French in the US before teaching English at the university here for nine years. I love the richness that being an expat brings to my life. I’m currently studying Art Therapy and also practice foreign languages, art, and writing.

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