The Definition of Kokorozashi

What is your personal mission?

In Japan, they have a term called kokorozashi (personal mission).
Tomoya Nakamura, Dean of graduate school management at GLOBIS University, shares that kokorozashi is a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create a positive change in society.

To further understand this term, Nick and Tomoya make an in-depth analysis of it.

A personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional

Nick: I stumbled upon your course, Leadership with Passion Through Kokorozashi. I found the course very insightful and helpful, and I became fascinated with the word and concept of kokorozashi. How would you define kokorozashi, Tomoya?.

Tomoya: We define kokorozashi as a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create positive change in society.

Nick: I understand. So it is something significant and quite ambitious.

Tomoya: Yes. We are not asking our students to come up with a kokorozashi or personal mission easily. It takes time.

Nick: If we look at the etymology of the word, it is formed with two words Kokoro, which can mean mind and heart, and the verb sasu which means to point. So we could understand the word to mean where the heart points or where the mind is focused on?

Tomoya: Yes, I have not thought the way you have. I think you are right, where the heart points or where the mind is focused, is a good definition. 

Nick: I have a coaching group and I often teach them words and Kokoro is fascinating because you need to understand the context. Is it the mind or your heart, but in this case, kokorozashi seems to have both the heart and mind connected.

Tomoya: Yes.

Nick: If we go deeper, we can look at the kanji of the word and that can give us more insight and it's a single kanji character made of two radicals.

On the top is the radical bushi, which means Samurai or warrior and below that is Kokoro. From the kanji, I guess we could take the word to mean "the heart of the warrior or the heart beneath the warrior."

Tomoya: Yeah. I think you're completely correct. I prefer to say "the heart of Samurai." A Samurai knows when to put his life on the line so kokorozashi is something that you can put your entire life onto.

Nick: Wow, that gives it some perspective then. I also learned that there is a verb form so kokorozashi is a noun, but there's also kokorozasu, which can mean to plan or to intend, to aspire to, or to aim for, or to set sights on. Is that correct?

Tomoya: Yes. But in Japan, we often use it as a noun, more than a verb.

Nick: I love this word. I think I fell in love with it straight away. I love the way that it sounds. I find the kanji both attractive and inspiring and it appears to be a word rooted in Bushido.

But it's also really relevant to leadership in business and that is something you teach in your courses and as part of the MBA programs at GLOBIS. I'd like to quote how you describe kokorozashi from your course, Leadership with Passion Through Kokorozashi.

So I'll just read the quote out.

"Imagine kokorozashi as an enjoyable life goal, a passion that occupies your thoughts on the weekend, and makes you excited to wake up on Monday morning. Finding it requires imagination, and realizing it requires awareness. As such, developing a self-defined kokorozashi that benefits society is no easy feat."

And when I read that, I found that very inspiring.

Tomoya: If you have a kokorozashi you tend to wait for Mondays, but if you don't have a kokorozashi you’ll probably think thank god, it's Friday.

Depending on whether you have a mission for life, and if you can make it the occupation that can drive you for many years, maybe longer than 10 years, maybe 20 years.

Nick: Wow. Okay, so it's a significant life investment. It sounds like it's not just a goal to achieve, it's something you're happy and wanting to pursue for many years or several decades.

Tomoya: 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.