Illustration of a globe with a spiral path around it and people climbing up and down to pursue their kokorozashi

Imagine kokorozashi as an enjoyable life goal—a passion that occupies your thoughts on the weekend and makes you excited to wake up on Monday morning. Finding it requires imagination, and realizing it requires awareness. As such, developing a self-defined kokorozashi that benefits society is no easy feat.

In the process of writing Kokorozashi: The Pursuit of Meaning in Business into English, Gil Chavez, Kenya Yoshino, and I gained valuable feedback from international students at GLOBIS University on the three existing visualizations of kokorozashi (outlined in the first part of this article). We also determined two others that would be particularly beneficial for an international audience. The first speaks to connecting with society, and the second to how awareness may change as kokorozashi develops.

Kamada’s Framework

The first new visualization came from Eiji Kamada, GLOBIS senior faculty. We modified the Japanese version by adding Being, Meaning, Planning/Doing, and Synchronicity.

Being represents the necessity to delve deep into ourselves for understanding of who we are. Who are our parents? What family values did we inherit? Where do we place value in our lives? Meaning helps connect us with society, the world outside of ourselves. What makes us happy? What makes us sad? What agitates us?

Once Being and Meaning are defined separately, we need to connect them. For example, a student might say, “I would like to help older people suffering from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake by providing a food delivery service. I developed this kokorozashi I because I enjoy sharing dinner with all members of my family, and this motivates me to work hard the next day.” Once we have built this kind of connection, we are better equipped to define our kokorozashi.

Next, we need to set the time horizon in the Planning/Doing stage. Continuing with the above example, what will happen to the food delivery service next year? In three years? Ten years?

The final stage, Synchronicity, covers events that happen by chance or, if you prefer, as the result of a greater power such as God or karma supporting your kokorozashi for the betterment of society.

The 4-Step Kokorozashi Awareness Framework

Looking over the alumni interview logs, I proposed the second new visualization: a Four-step Kokorozashi Awareness Framework that takes us through the inevitable peaks and valleys of the kokorozashi process.

1. Foundation Period
2. Planned Happenstance
3. The Alchemist
4. Synchronicity and Theory U

This framework relates to where each of us stands in achieving our kokorozashi, and helps us understand how our awareness changes depending on each step.

Step 1: The Foundation Period

The Foundation Period is akin to a difficult apprenticeship—we work hard, learn a great deal, and build a foundation of skills in the process. The Japanese word shugyo refers to difficult training that forges character and mental steel. In the Foundation Period, we often feel that we’re being pushed, even forced, to work and develop. This may be true initially, but the situation should eventually lead to taking initiative and self-motivation.  

Starting out with kokorozashi, we must first find our strengths and understand our weaknesses. Then we must commit to developing ourselves, relentlessly training to push beyond what we think we can do.

Step 2: Planned Happenstance

The next step, Planned Happenstance, involves setting out on a journey into the world, welcoming challenges not as hardships, but as exciting steps toward achieving kokorozashi.

In this step, we realize that our difficult training served as a match, lighting a fire of motivation. Our thoughts and actions are more focused and attuned, leading to opportunities and advancement.

As with climbing Mt. Fuji, there are several routes we could take to our kokorozashi, but they all ultimately lead to the same destination. Even better, because they intersect, we don’t have to worry over which route to take. We can change our mind as we go, collecting information and monitoring changes in ourselves.

Planned Happenstance fits well into this age of rapid change and innovation, where it’s important to try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them. By being flexible and open, we can more easily invite the unexpected to help us along.

Step Three: The Alchemist

Following Planned Happenstance will eventually advance our journey to The Alchemist. This stage is named after Paulo Coelho’s best-selling novel about a shepherd boy who sets out to seek his fortune. On his journey, he meets a king, a shop owner, his true love, and—you guessed it—an alchemist, each of whom helps him learn how to open his heart and soul. What follows are a few excerpts from the book and how we might interpret them to apply to this stage of kokorozashi development:

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

We must be open to luck and emotion and be brave enough to follow our intuition. This will help us find kokorozashi that suit the mind, heart, and soul.

“[Alchemists] show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Even as we work to achieve our kokorozashi, we’re already making the world around us better.

“Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Developing kokorozashi awareness—being open and enthusiastic about new opportunities—can bring fulfillment and eventually enable significant changes in the people around us, our organization, and society.

Through his journey, the shepherd boy learns how to overcome fears of failure, of losing money and status, and of becoming successful.

Step Four: Synchronicity and Theory U

The fourth and final step is Synchronicity and Theory U. The former comes from the book, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, by Joseph Jaworski, a well-known leadership consultant and former senior fellow and board member at the MIT Center for Organizational Learning. Jaworski uses his life story to introduce the inspirational aspects of leadership and synchronicity that brought him great personal change and satisfaction. Theory U comes from Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges, by Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer at MIT.

Below is a key excerpt for Synchronicity:

“Successful leadership depends on a fundamental shift of being, including a deep commitment to the dream and a passion for serving versus being driven by the pursuit of status and power.”

Joseph Jaworski, Synchronicity

Jaworski’s position is that if we can change our perception and look at the world as a network of relations, things will start to change. We may begin to achieve synchronicity, encouraging good in others and ourselves.

We cannot resist the call of synchronicity any more than we can resist our destiny. In step four, we choose to take up this endeavor, this personal mission, this kokorozashi. The decision to do so comes not from outward pressure or influence, but from our own willingness to devote our time, energy, and self to realizing this goal.

Final Thoughts

The interesting part of the Four-step Kokorozashi Awareness Framework is that Step Four is at the intersection of Western research and traditional Eastern philosophy. 

The concept of presencing—a blending of “presence” and “sensing” fundamental to Theory U, in which the individual reaches inward to the deepest part of his or her self—is very similar to the total stillness of Eastern philosophy as seen in Japanese tea ceremony or aikido.

The moment we find our kokorozashi may best be characterized by the words of sixteenth century theologian Martin Luther: “the point where our freedom and destiny merge.” I hope that these visualizations from Kokorozashi: The Pursuit of Meaning in Business have shed light on your journey and will help you bring positive change to yourself and those around you.