Neerja Birla On Finding Her Ikigai Through Books
What’s the secret to a long and healthy life? ‘Ikigai’, a Japanese concept, may provide the answer. Besides asking what the higher purpose of living is, it also talks of a balance between professional and personal lives and the path to spiritual fulfillment.
So, what’s one’s Ikigai in life? It’s also a question Neerja Birla hopes to answer as she speaks to BloombergQuint about the books that have greatly influenced and guided her journey in different ways.
“I like to think that deep down, all of us are seekers. We look to find meaning, grow spiritually and to find the elusive peace,” says the founder and chairperson of Aditya Birla Education Trust. “My own journey has been about trying to find the balance between the positive and negative emotions and in understanding pursuit of happiness.”
“How can I be the best version of myself? What is my higher goal of life? What is my Ikigai? That’s the question that I one day hope to answer.”
Here’s a look at some of Birla’s favourite reads of all time...
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, By Robin Sharma
“We’re raised to pursue one idea of the way our lives are supposed to be — school, college, a good job, a family and the general promise of material comfort,” Birla said. “This book helped remind me that the path to fulfillment does not come from material possessions but rather from one’s state of mind.”
Two ideas that I really love from this book are:
- Do what you love and it will bring happiness, energy and grace into your life.
- Do what you fear and you will truly see what you’re capable of.
“This book taught me the importance of letting go.”
A New Earth, By Eckhart Tolle
“Reading this was very impactful because it really opened my eyes to the destructive power of one’s own thoughts and ego,” Birla said. “This book tackles some of our most deep-rooted ways of thinking and living that it took me a while to even be able to internalise some of the ideas. To accept and enjoy each moment in life as it is, without judgment. Feeling of freedom that comes with letting go of negative feelings and coming to terms with resentment. The ability to accept each moment without any judgments and filters of the past.”
Conquest Of The Mind, By Eknath Easwaran
Easwaran has a simple, empathetic way of talking about how the mind works, and how it can be trained to rise above the thoughts and emotions that cause unhappiness and turmoil. “For me, this book was one of those seminal early guides on how to practice mindfulness and mediation to shape one’s mind into a secure, resilient and happy place,” Birla said.
Alchemist, By Paulo Coelho
“There’s an uncertainty around our future that we worry about — is our destiny already written or do we write our own destiny?” Birla said. “This story reconciles that very doubt — the world is certain, as is one’s destiny but it is up to us to be the catalyst for change in our lives and to choose to meet that destiny through our journey. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by challenges, this book reminds me that I must be the alchemist who transforms obstacles into opportunities.”
Tuesdays With Morrie, By Mitch Albom
“The transience of our existence is the bittersweet truth that we all grapple with,” Birla said. “Even though the only thing certain about our lives is death.”
“This book reminds us to be courageous, to be able to look death in its face and yet draw inspiration from our journey this far. The feeling of fulfillment in capturing the present moment and being aware and mindful.”
“I believe that the road to self-improvement is always under construction, and that all we can do with our short lives is to seize each moment, live in the present, and to surrender one’s self to a larger purpose. That, I believe is the path to a full heart and a mind which is at peace,” Birla said. “It is a very fearful thought.”