Defining The Past

In their study, Dr. Shintaro Kono and his colleagues found two conditions for houkousei (life directionality), one is defining the past. What is it?

Dr. Shintaro explains defining the past as valued experiences which served as a turning point in people's lives.

Nick: A recurring theme I've learned from yourself and other Japanese is there's this casualness approach to ikigai and I guess yutori, where there are no strict rules, just be casual in your approach. 

Where in the West, we're almost creating this sense of pressure thinking, I have to know what my ikigai is. So I do like this casualness where you don't have to say, every morning, I'm going to meditate from eight to nine.

It can be something like, well, I just feel like having my coffee outside or I might pet my cats, and just relax for half an hour, and you might end up getting the sort of the same benefit with this casual approach to things. 

That's something I'm trying to embrace. I do have a tendency to get up and want to do things, but I do think, relax, man, you got the whole day ahead, have your coffee, don't drink it in front of the computer, sit outside.

So let's move on, Shin, with these two associations, behavioural and cognitive. Your research also revealed two conditions for houkousei, and they were defining the past and clear goals. 

I think our audience would understand the importance of clear goals and we’ll discuss that in a minute. But I find this condition defining the past fascinating. So can you explain what it means in the context of your theory?

Shintaro: Sure, defining past is the past experiences, which is basically the valued experiences that I mentioned in Episode Four that effort for enjoyment is stimulating and comforting experience.

Any of those maybe mixture of them, that happened in the past, then you're no longer doing it, but they are so powerful that when you reflect back, you oftentimes remember that there is vivid memories around that too.

And it's often when we interview people, we talk to people, we just introduce ourselves, those are experiences that people often utilize to define who they are, where they're coming from, not just about their location, but also what kind of person they are really.

So they tend to mention them as basically turning points in their life, that in their life trajectories, sometimes something happened, and people just quit their job, career and switch to whole another degree for example, that type of thing.

So really powerful, transformative experiences. And people do have those experiences.

Nick: I definitely had a few, now that you mentioned quitting a job. One day, I walked out of a job, I was just sitting at the desk, and I was extremely stressed because of workplace harassment, constant pressure, the work was absolutely meaningless.

I was depressed, I was frustrated. I just thought, you can't keep doing this, so I asked a coworker to be a witness. I got a manager, I went in a room and said, this is happening, I've been documenting this abuse, and I'm leaving today.

I just walked out, and I didn't go back. I got my pay on my holiday pay, and then that's when I really started really going into my online work and entrepreneurial pursuit. 

So even though that experience was absolutely horrible, I can look back at it now and think, man, that was a turning point, and I could say, well, you had the courage to do that, and thank God, you did that and look where your life is now.

So that is a question I do have, and I think it's something we should do often, to look back at turning points or transformative experiences, and think about what they mean to us.