019 – Kokorozashi: A Personal Mission That Benefits Society

In this episode of The Ikigai Podcast, join Nick and Tomoya Nakamura as they explore these questions and 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:

  • Defining kokorozashi. At 2:43, Tomoya defines Kokorozashi.
  • Kokorozashi as the intersection of being and meaning. At 10:11 Tomoya shares how he came up with the concept of being and meaning for Kokorozashi.
  • Do business owners need kokorozashi? At 13:02, Tomoya explains the need for business owners to have kokorozashi.
  • Kokorozashi and leadership. At 18:10 Nick and Tomoya talk about the relevance of kokorozashi to leadership.
  • How one maintains their kokorozashi. The maintenance of kokorozashi and the importance of staying focused when times are tough are discussed at 19:08
  • Globis University. At 21:55, Nick and Tomoya talk about Globis University.
  • Globis Unlimited. At 24:38, Tomoya discusses GLOBIS Unlimited, one of the courses offered by his institution.
  • Globis graduates. At 25:38, Tomoya provides some examples of GLOBIS graduates who are pursuing kokorozashi.
  • Technovate. At 28:49, Nick and Tomoya talk about technovate, a concept that GLOBIS is focused on.
  • Using kokorozashi. The application of kokorozashi in different situations is explored.
  • Tomoya’s ikigai. At 37:45, Tomoya shares what his ikigai is.

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

Tomoya defines kokorozashi as a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create positive change in society, and he says that it takes time for a person to come up with a kokorozashi or personal mission.

Nick explains that it comes from two words, kokoro which means mind and heart, and the verb sasu which means to point, so it can be defined as where the heart points or what the mind is focused on; the kanji of the word suggests it may also refer to the heart of the warrior or the heart beneath the warrior. Tomoya responds by saying that he prefers to say the heart of a Samurai, because a Samurai knows when to put his life on the line, and kokorozashi is something that people can put their entire life onto.


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?

Tomoya thinks that business owners can run their companies without kokorozashi, but still, it’s vital to have one. Money is important, however, it will not motivate people even if they gain plenty of it; having intrinsic motivation is important as this will help them in the long run. It is important for an individual to use their capabilities for something bigger than money: to have a societal goal, not just a personal one.

Intrinsic Motivation

Tomoya uses Samurais as an example. These people had responsibilities of both the arm and the government, and they needed to think about their community, not just themselves; they blended these two areas and responsibilities to achieve prosperity.

Kokorozashi and leadership

Tomoya believes that kokorozashi is associated with leadership; it is about intrinsic motivation, so if people want to realize their kokorozashi, they should be the most passionate about it and take initiative so that their passion will transcend other areas of their work or lives.

How does one maintain their kokorozashi?

With ambitious goals and business ventures, there will also be tough times. Tomoya counsels his students to find even the slightest benefits from every challenge; this way, even if they did not succeed, they can still find means for improvement and they can still carry on or try again. Tomoya also 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 also creates a support system by offering opportunities for students who are struggling to find encouragement from their peers.

GLOBIS University

Nick thinks that Globis is an example of an organization with a strong kokorozashi, which Tomoya agrees with. He says that 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 senior working mothers, 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.

Tomoya shares that they conduct 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.


Nick and Tomoya talk about the term technovate. Tomoya explains that it is a word created by their founder, combining the word technology and innovate, because 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, which is the reason why the institution offers technovate courses such as robotics and big data analysis.

Kokorozashi and ikigai

Tomoya thinks that ikigai is a better fit for personal goals, like having hobbies that people enjoy doing, 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.

Ikigai and Kokorozashi

Tomoya’s ikigai

Tomoya shares that his ikigai or kokorozashi is to convey to the world what Globis can offer. He also mentions gratitude. He shares how in martial arts, if you can say thank you to your opponent, your opponent will go flying, and if you think you want to beat up your opponent, he's not going to fly. Tomoya believes that if a business thinks similarly, it can have a bigger role to play in society -- not just making money, but making a difference.


Nick agrees that, for him, gratitude is such a simple and easy thing to express, and yet it means so much.


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.