A man running through an upward arrow-shaped doorway as he visualizes his personal mission

At GLOBIS University, we encourage students to focus on personal development—the internal and external, hard skills in parallel with soft skills. Of all the classes and books offered in our MBA curriculum, the course that most focuses on personal development is Entrepreneurial Leadership. This is a required course in which students challenge themselves to develop a personal mission and life purpose—or as we call it, kokorozashi.

Kokorozashi is much more than a goal or life narrative. The aim is to emphasize the will, determination, and commitment required to achieve a goal, as well as the ethical values that support the journey. Identifying kokorozashi is not easy; in fact it’s difficult for most people and can be very time consuming. Students at GLOBIS are expected to develop their kokorozashi over several months and present them on the final day of the Entrepreneurial Leadership course. This time and effort inevitably pays off—once we have our kokorozashi, we find ourselves uniquely prepared to achieve our goals for a more fulfilled life.

Here at GLOBIS, we believe it is time to reach beyond Japan to offer insight into kokorozashi. My colleagues Kenya Yoshino, Gil Chavez, and I began writing Kokorozashi: The Pursuit of Meaning in Business based on the Japanese book Kokorozashi wo Sodateru* and interviews with over 30 GLOBIS alumni. Our work aims to further instill that sense of personal mission for a positive impact on society.

Kokorozashi: Visualizing the Process

The Japanese Kokorozashi wo Sodateru introduced three visualizations—each instrumental in enabling students to conceptualize the process of kokorozashi development. Based on our experience and feedback, we’ve added two more visualizations to the English version. Before we get to those, let us consider the original concepts.

The first visualization is known as the Kokorozashi Process Wheel.

In this visualization, we can develop kokorozashi via a 5-step process—a series of goals:

1. Objectively Looking at Oneself
2. Asking Personal Questions
3. Setting New Goals
4. Struggling to Achieve Goals
5. End to a Pursuit 

In my view, the most important of these is Step 2, Asking Personal Questions. At this stage, the external analysis may be the same, but personal interest helps us identify and create missions that are unique to us. After all, each of us has a different set of life experiences that have shaped us into who we are. Some people are interested in a specific field, others may have a passion for particular services, and still others may simply enjoy the learning process itself. To develop an effective and meaningful kokorozashi, it is important to reflect upon ourselves subjectively, recognizing the unique differences that make us who we are, with an awareness that these elements are neither good nor bad.

The second visualization is known as the Kokorozashi Stairway.

Here, a circular stairway replaces the kokorozashi wheel to add a sense of time, progression, improvement, and elevation. Upon reaching the top, we are inevitably changed by new knowledge and experience. As we advance up the stairway, our kokorozashi also grows, ever-evolving.

Next, the 2 Dimensions visualization highlights the contrast between priorities for ourselves versus those for society.

Here we see an Autonomous Decision Making vertical axis wherein “low” represents following someone else’s goals and “high” represents determining our own.

The horizontal axis is Public Contribution, wherein “low” represents a self-serving mission and “high” represents a focus on family, friends, organizations, and society. Students at GLOBIS typically aim to position their personal missions in the top right corner—that is, self-defined kokorozashi that benefit society.

These 2 Dimensions are especially important for students to reflect on their past careers and correct any imbalance: Have they concentrated too much on Autonomous Decision Making? Are they too concerned with Public Contribution? Answering these questions will bring them closer to meaningful kokorozashi.

Adapting Visualizations for a Broader Audience

While visualizing the path of your kokorozashi may seem like a simple exercise in imagination, it is in fact an important part of kokorozashi development. To gain perspective on our goals, it’s a good idea to come at them from multiple angles with different priorities set to each. Perhaps the weaknesses uncovered by the Kokorozashi Wheel might find solutions through the 2 Dimensions. Or, rather than solutions, perhaps reflecting on our past will lead to reassessment of what we’re really aiming to do in the future.

As my colleagues and I worked to complete Kokorozashi: The Pursuit of Meaning in Business, two additional visualizations occurred to us as useful tools, particularly for an international audience. These two new visualizations were built upon interviews with GLOBIS students whose insights enhanced untapped areas of the kokorozashi journey. The second installment of this series will go into these new visualizations in further detail.

*Kokorozashi wo Sodateru was written by GLOBIS Japanese MBA Dean Yoshihiko Takubo, Deputy Dean Keiko Murao, and their colleagues and published by Toyo Keizai Shinpo Sha in 2011.