015 – Misako Yoke on Taking Heart With Genki Habits

When do you channel your inner warrior?

Overcoming discouragement during tough times can be challenging, but there are simple steps you can take to push aside pessimism and find the strength to face hardships.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick and Misako Yoke discuss how people become stronger by embracing their true self with the help of Genki habits.

Podcast highlights:

  • Hinoe uma. At 2:19, Nick and Misako talk about hinoe uma, the fire-horse zodiac sign.
  • Being a Genki person. At 5:42, Misako talks about the term genki and why she describes herself as a genki person.
  • Life as a wife in Japan. At 11:15, Misako shares her life as a wife in Japan, and how it became a source of conflict with her being a genki person.
  • Living in American Samoa. Misako shares at 21:58 how she ended up staying in American Samoa.
  • “Genki habits”. At 25:19, the two discuss Misako's genki habits, the genki methods she developed along her life journey, and the acronym she constructed for genki.
  • Channeling your inner samurai. At 39:26, Misako shares the expression she learned from one of her mentors: “Channel you own samurai”, and explains how it helped her.
  • Nanakorobi yaoki. At 43:11, Nick and Misako talk about another term mentioned in Misako’s book, nanakorobi yaoki, which means “to fall seven times and rise eight”.

Misako Yoke

Misako Yoke

Misako Yoke is an award-winning speaker, certified Life Story Coach, and Genki Method creator. She's committed to helping people navigate through life’s challenges to remind them of their true strength; she’s also the author of Take Heart! You’re Stronger Than You Think, a book that allows readers to examine adversity through her life stories while integrating the Genki Method.

Hinoe uma

In Japan, there is a prevalent belief that female babies born in the year of the fire-horse zodiac, hinoe uma, bring misfortune to their families and future husbands, as this zodiac cycle occurs only once every 60 years. Misako, who happens to be a fire-horse woman, reveals that she faced discrimination based on this belief, with her teachers consistently labeling her as a bearer of bad luck.

Pregnant women for that year were even forced to have an abortion, which meant lower birth rates for that year.

Being a genki person

Being a lively person, Misako identifies herself as genki (full of life). Growing up, she was often deemed as the "weird" one, and other kids avoided her. However, instead of being discouraged, this served as motivation for her to embrace her uniqueness and become comfortable with herself.

She loves being referred to as a genki person, as it signifies her ability to radiate a contagious enthusiasm.

Life as a wife in Japan

Misako wrote about how being a good wife in Japan means that you have to be agreeable and obedient, which is not how she sees herself. She recalls her time as a married woman in Japan, where societal expectations assumed she would give up her job. Additionally, she was burdened with the responsibility of managing all the household chores.

She argues that this arrangement is unfair to women because not everyone can conform to these standards. As individuals age, they develop their own unique character, making it challenging to simply be obedient and voiceless.

Following her divorce, Misako found herself becoming a member of the madogiwazoku (the tribe that sits by the window). Rather than terminating her employment, her company maneuvered her into a challenging role with the intention of pressuring her to resign. While this situation was distressing, it also served as a pivotal moment that propelled her towards embarking on journeys to various countries.

Living in American Samoa

After visiting New Zealand and Australia, Misako ended up living in American Samoa, where an American man she dated helped her find an apartment. She describes this as a fun experience, as she found a second family that accepted her, helped her connect to Samoan culture, supported her in developing her writing skills, and encouraged her to sell her articles to Japanese magazines. Misako had a colorful life in American Samoa, which she describes in her book entitled Take Heart! You’re Stronger Than You Think.

Genki Habits

Aided by the wisdom and insights of people she encountered, Misako developed the ‘genki habits’, with the core message: ‘You are strongest when you are yourself; embrace your true self.’ Whatever difficulties they encounter, the genki method helps people to just be themselves.

When you are yourself, you are the strongest. Embrace your true self. - Misako Yoke

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Embrace Yourself

For Misako, genki stands for:

  • G - get some breathing room

            When people are experiencing something bad, instead of being horrified,

            they should get some breathing room in order to not worsen the situation. 


  • E - embrace who you are and who you are becoming

People need to know who they are and who they are not. Sometimes people are focused more on others rather than taking some time to really get to know themselves. People need to know who they want to be and what they believe in, not just relying on other people’s opinions -- which is similar to ikigai, being in line with their true selves.

  • N - navigate through changes

One important element that people need to remember is that when they start something new, they are a beginner again, and, understandably, they cannot be good at anything when they first start something; people should not be afraid of change, but instead should see it as a way of learning new things.

This is similar to having a ‘beginner’s mind’ (a concept from Buddhism), where life will throw things at people and they have to know how to navigate through changes. Approaching new things from a beginner’s mind will help you grow as a person.

Beginner's Mind

  • K - be kind to yourself

When faced with hardship, sometimes people’s minds are their own worst enemies, producing negative thoughts, and that’s why it is important to be kind to yourself rather than adding extra pain and suffering.


Be Kind To Yourself

  • - integrating who you are with how you live

When people make a choice, they should be conscious about it; if they don’t like it, they should remember that this is their life, they are in total control, and they should change direction. This will help bring big differences in their lives.

Channeling your inner samurai

One of Misako’s mentors shared with her the expression, “channel your inner samurai”, and this helped her a lot. She began to use it as a trigger word for herself, such that when she was faced with something unpleasant, she would immediately remind herself, “I have samurai in me”. This is not just a metaphor: Misako is in fact a descendant of samurai and has a great love for the samurai era.

Nanakorobi Yaoki

The expression nanakorobi yao ki means “fall seven times and rise eight”. This is a Japanese concept of resilience which is a big theme in Misako’s life and coaching, so it is often used in her sessions as it highlights that, no matter how many times bad things happen with people, they can pick themselves back up. She says her mom would often say that even when people are in their darkest hours, it’s only temporary -- whatever the hardships are, none of them is eternal, it’s going to pass, and there is always hope.

Take Heart

"Every scar you have is a reminder that you've suffered the pain and the suffering. You've endured, you've made it through, you now have a deeper understanding and greater compassion towards others’ struggles. You and I both know that a pain-free life doesn't exist, but we can always choose the right pain, the pain that helps us grow, the kind that leaves a scar that we can be proud of. Take heart, my friend, you are stronger than you think." - Misako Yoke


In the toughest moments of our lives, hope remains. We hold the sole responsibility for our own lives, and it's crucial to live according to our own desires rather than conforming to others' expectations. Challenges along the way enable personal growth and self-discovery. Giving up is unnecessary as difficult times guide us towards the right path, helping us understand ourselves and embrace our ikigai.