The Western Way of Romanticizing Foreign Concepts

What is worth doing and what is not worth doing?

In Japan, they see things as either worth doing or not worth doing. Thus, they go after what really matters to them and put their best in everything they do. Nick Kemp shares that knowing what is worth doing is essential for understanding ikigai. However, in the West, they romanticise the concept of ikigai, thus incorporating it into a Venn diagram which is not a proper representation of the concept.

People can feel ikigai with things that are worth doing

Nick: That word yarigai is really interesting, because that's far more common. It reminds me of how Japanese tend to perceive things as either worth doing or not worth doing. Maybe in the West, we kind of perceive things, is it going to be enjoyable or pleasurable? Or if it's too much hard work, I won't do it.

And so that's one word that is needed to be understood in order to understand ikigai. There's this idea in Japan that either things are worth doing, or not worth doing, and whether it's going to be pleasant or not really doesn't matter.

And then your ikigai is something more private and personal. You can keep to yourself or can be highly ambitious, maybe more like a kokorozashi, this big life-defining goal you're gonna commit your life to.

What's interesting, though, there's been many papers written by Japanese and non Japanese, and so it seems to link to things like existential positive psychology, philosophy. It's something I guess, teachable, coachable to some degree.

But in the West, we kind of have this Western lens, and we either romanticise foreign concepts, or we think we can understand them from a Venn diagram or from a one-minute conversation, and then have the desire to share it with others because it seems so special and unique.


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