004 – Finding Ikigai in Leisure with Shintaro Kono

Can leisure activities be a source of ikigai?

Leisure activities are the things that we do for fun or enjoyment, and it turns out that these activities can also be good contributors to acquiring ikigai. How can this be possible?


In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick discusses with Shintaro Kono how people can find ikigai in leisure.


Podcast highlights:

  • Why study leisure. At 1:54, Shintaro shares why he chose leisure as the focus of his study and how he became an assistant professor at the University of Alberta.

  • Definition of ikigai. At 5:06, Shintaro gives his definition of ikigai.

  • Three ikigai leisure concepts. At 8:37, Shintaro talks about the three ikigai leisure concepts that he came up with.

  • Two types of ikigai perceptions. Shintaro discusses the two types of ikigai perceptions, life-affirmation and life vibrancy, at 20:21

  • Value balancing. At 14:19, Shintaro talks about what he discovered in his study: that students need value balancing.

  • Value disengagement. At 18:07, Shintaro talks about another finding of his study: the need for students to disengage from experiences.

  • Shintaro’s advice. At 22:38, Shintaro gives his advice about the two types of ikigai perceptions.

  • Finding ikigai in leisure activities. At 26:36, Shintaro shares some steps to find ikigai in leisure activities.

  • Shintaro’s ikigai. At 29:38, Shintaro shares what his ikigai is.


Shintaro Kono

Shintaro Kono is an expert in leisure behavior science and an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is known for his research on ikigai.




Why study leisure

Shintaro obtained his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education-Sport and Leisure Management at Tokai University, Japan. He became interested in the programme as a high schooler after hearing a presentation by Dr Shin Nishino at an ‘open campus’ event, where he and other students could sample lectures from various universities to see if they were a good match for a particular degree. Dr. Nishino became his degree supervisor, and supported Shintaro in studying leisure, sports, and tourism.



Definition of ikigai


Ikigai


According to Shintaro, ikigai in Japanese means two things: 

  1. A feeling that a person has that life that’s worth living; having a meaningful life.

  2. Something that makes a person feel motivated - the contributors or sources of ikigai; it can be a hobby, relationship, or even work.

Houkou-sei (life directionality)

Shintaro’s study mentioned three ikigai leisure concepts: houkou-sei, ibasho, and keiken.


The first one is houkou-sei (life directionality), which Shintaro defines as the temporal aspect of ikigai; it is the associations that people make between experiences at different times in their lives, the way that past events in their lives contribute to who they are and what they do today, and how that leads to their future goals.



Ibasho (authentic relationships)

The second theory is ibasho (authentic relationships). Shintaro describes this concept as an interpersonal dimension of ikigai. It is about sharing valued experiences with close others and knowing that everyone in the group values these experiences equally.



Keiken (valued experience) 

The third theory is keiken (valued experience), which is about the here and now: the events that people personally value, and as well as their community. Shintaro identified four key types of valued experience that contribute to having ikigai:

  1. Tanoshimi (enjoyment) - not thinking about the long-term; just appreciating the here and now.

  2. Gambari (effort) - making efforts and overcoming challenges while thinking about long term accomplishments.

  3. Shigeki (stimulation) - doing something new.

  4. Iyashi (comfort) - old or ordinary things that people are used to.

Shintaro explains that the core of the three theories is keiken; the more values that people collect from enjoyment, efforts, stimulation, and comfort, the more ikigai they experience because they have more ways in which to ground their understanding of ikigai.


We found that each of these four types of experiences; enjoyment, effort, stimulation and comfort, contribute to ikigai feeling. - Dr. Shinataro Kono

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Keiken


Value balancing

Shintaro conducted a study in which he interviewed 27 students. He found that they consistently talked about having different types of experiences and being able to compare and contrast values of enjoyment and effort. This led him to propose that ‘value balancing’ is a key part of ikigai: attaining a variety of the types of value provided by different experiences.



Value disengagement

Shintaro also found that students needed to disengage from their experiences. He explains that effortful experience can be daunting, and that sometimes it is important to step away from this challenge. By doing so, people will have time to have fun. Taking a break from effortful activities gives people the comfort they need to re-engage with them later on.


Value Disengagement


Two types of ikigai perceptions

Shintaro’s keiken theory identified two types of ikigai perceptions: 


  1. Life affirmation - people’s lives are worth living because of their day-to-day valued experiences.

  2. Life vibrancy - having plentiful valuable experiences and being motivated because of this.

Finding ikigai in leisure activities

When asked about what advice he can give to help people find ikigai, Shintaro says to just try things, because people will never know the real value of an experience until they actually do it. There is value to just being spontaneous and playful; playfulness is valuable for both adults as well as kids.

Being able to play is very valuable for adults as well, not just for kids. - Dr. Shintaro Kono

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Ikigai in Leisure

He believes that leisure is unique in terms of the flexibility with which people can value it. When people feel like something’s missing in their lives, they can go for leisure because it gives them opportunities to explore many different things that can be a great source of ikigai.


Nick agrees, stating that leisure can be a good starting point to find ikigai.


Ikigai in Leisure


Shintaro’s ikigai

Shintaro shares that he has multiple sources of ikigai. He enjoys playing badminton because it is fun and offers him opportunities for improvement; he loves being a professor, because that work allows him to do different things, meet different people, and conduct research; he also enjoys spending time with his wife and being able to do things together.



Conclusion

Engaging in leisure activities can also be a great source of ikigai, as it provides enjoyment and opportunities to try new things that allow us to discover something new about ourselves. It is also a good time for us to clear our minds, relax, and have a break from things that worry us. It gives us more valued experiences that we can use as motivation in our daily lives.


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