019 – Kokorozashi: A Personal Mission That Benefits Society

Would you commit years possibly decades of your life to a person mission?

To make a meaningful contribution to today's society, one must commit to a kokorozashi—a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create positive change in society.

In this episode of The Ikigai Podcast, join Nick and Tomoya Nakamura as they discuss the importance of the Japanese concept of kokorozashi in today’s society.

Kokorozashi is about building your goals

"Maybe if we think about mountain climbing, you're thinking of climbing the nearest mountain. But once you reach the top, you find out there's another mountain behind. So kokorozashi is like creating your first goal, seeing your second goal, maybe seeing your third challenge. As a consequence it will lead you to maybe 10 years, maybe 20 years." - Tomoya Nakamura

Podcast highlights:

Tomoya Nakamura

Tomoya Nakamura is the Dean of Graduate School Management at GLOBIS University, the largest and fastest-growing business school in Japan. He teaches courses in the discipline of leadership and globalization, and frequently conducts training programs for global corporations. Tomoya is a graduate of Hitotsubashi University with a degree in social studies, and received his MBA from Harvard Business School

Defining kokorozashi

Kokorozashi is a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create positive change in society. Derived from two words, kokoro (mind and heart) and the verb sasu (to point), kokorozashi can be defined as ‘where the heart points’ or ‘what the mind is focused on.’

Moreover, its kanji suggests that it may also refer to the heart of a samurai, hinting that kokorozashi is something that people can devote their lives to.


Tomoya teaches the relevance of kokorozashi to leadership in business, where he describes kokorozashi as an enjoyable life goal, a passion that occupies people’s thoughts on the weekend, and makes them excited to wake up on Monday morning.

Finding it requires imagination, and realizing it requires awareness. Therefore, developing a self-defined kokorozashi that benefits society is no easy feat.

Kokorozashi as the intersection of being and meaning

It was a struggle for Tomoya and his colleagues to explain this concept of kokorozashi to international students, so they came up with the idea of ‘being and meaning’ -- the intersection of the students’ backgrounds and interests, as a way for them to define their kokorozashi. 

He shares that sometimes students find their value inherited from a member of their family, which means they had been chasing the same objectives with their family member; the personal missions are not only for the students themselves, but among their family as well, it’s like fulfilling the family’s kokorozashi.

Do business owners need kokorozashi?

Business owners can operate their businesses without kokorozashi, but according to Tomoya, having one is crucial. While money is important, it alone cannot motivate people. Intrinsic motivation plays a significant role in sustaining their drive in the long term. 

It is essential for individuals to utilize their abilities for something greater than monetary gain: to pursue a societal goal rather than a personal one.
Intrinsic Motivation

A notable example is that of samurais. These individuals held dual responsibilities in both the military and governance, emphasizing the importance of community welfare over self-interest. They successfully merged these two areas and obligations to achieve prosperity.

Kokorozashi and leadership

Kokorozashi is closely linked to leadership, and to truly understand it, one must have a strong passion and be ready to take initiative. By doing so, their passion will extend to other aspects of their work or personal life.

How does one maintain their kokorozashi?

With ambitious goals and business ventures, tough times also arise. In light of this, Tomoya counsels his students to seek even the slightest benefits from every challenge. This way, even if they did not succeed, they can still find means for improvement and carry on.

Additionally, he advises students to support each other. Each year, students are invited to meetings where they can get together and share the progress of their kokorozashi. This creates a support system by offering opportunities for students who are struggling to find encouragement from their peers.

GLOBIS University

Globis University, where Tomoya serves as the dean of the Graduate School Management, is an exemplary organization that embodies a strong kokorozashi. Their founder, Yoshito Hori, started Globis in 1992, shortly after he graduated from Harvard Business School. Comparing the US and Japan, he saw that Japan lacked venture capital, a business school, and business publication. Globis filled this gap and has been steadily growing since its foundation.

The institution offers Globis Unlimited courses, which give a thorough understanding of essential business frameworks, concepts, and trends, and a clear understanding of how to apply them to business needs. These courses are accessible online and are presented in both English and Japanese.

Globis graduates

Tomoya named two graduates from their university who are pursuing their kokorozashi.

The first is Mihoko Suzuki, a working mother who was struggling to balance work, raising kids, studying, and doing housework. She developed a housekeeping service that would send older mothers, to provide help with housework for the busy working mothers, to the benefit for both: the senior mother became necessary for the housework, which gave her purpose, while the working mother had more time to focus on her career.

The second student is Dr. Jose Fernandez Villasenor, who started a bio-interactive technology company in Silicon Valley, where he helps patients who had strokes with the virtual reality response. Villasenor uses virtual reality to facilitate rehabilitation.

Globis conducts business plan contests for their students, where they provide the seed capital for the best business plans. This allows winning students to start their own business.


Technovate is a term coined by Globis’ founder, which combines the words technology and innovate, as they offer a lot of technology or innovation-related courses. Many of their invested companies are in technology, and so the impact of technology is particularly visible, thus, the institution offers technovate courses such as robotics and big data analysis.

Kokorozashi and ikigai

As Tomoya sees it, ikigai is a better fit for personal goals, such as enjoying hobbies, while kokorozashi is more related to societal goals, like how at Globis they aspire to develop visionary leaders who create and innovate societies. However, he feels that ikigai and kokorozashi are very much the same with regards to how they give people motivation to keep going.

If people have ikigai or kokorozashi, it makes them want to live to their capacity.” - Tomoya Nakamura

Ikigai and Kokorozashi

Tomoya’s ikigai

For Tomoya, his ikigai or kokorozashi is to convey to the world what Globis can offer. Additionally, he believes in the significance of practicing gratitude, particularly within the realm of business. He envisions businesses having a larger role to play in society—not solely focused on making money, but also dedicated to making a meaningful difference.

"It doesn't take a lot to express gratitude, but it means so much." - Nicholas Kemp


It is crucial to find a personal mission that will also benefit the society -- reflecting the fact that we share the world with others and should give as well as receive. This can support individuals in setting goals, personally or for business, that go beyond money-making and also think about providing a benefit to others around them.