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Japanese Wisdom and the Art of Living

Japanese Wisdom and the Art of Living

Japanese philosophy and culture offer us five profound concepts that provide valuable insights into the art of living.

As you take your first steps into this new year I invite you to consider how these insights might play out in your life.





Ikigai: Finding Purpose in Life

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates to "a reason for being" or "a reason to wake up in the morning." It´s an interplay between what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. At the intersection of these elements lies your Ikigai – a deep sense of purpose that nurtures fulfillment and joy.

Ikigai just doesn’t fall out of the sky and hit you on the head while you’re on your way to get Ramen. I mean it´s possible , but most likely discovering your Ikigai will involve introspection, self-awareness, and a willingness to align your passions with the needs of the world. Ikigai is a holistic approach to life, emphasizing the importance of balance and meaningful connections.


Kaizen: The Continuous Pursuit of Improvement

Kaizen, rooted in the idea of continuous improvement, encourages small, incremental changes over time. It is a philosophy that believes in the transformative power of consistent, positive actions. By breaking down large goals into manageable steps, Kaizen fosters a mindset of continuous learning and progress.

Kaizen is the idea of aggregated marginal gains, or a daily commitment to one percent progress and improvement. It´s the marriage of what Eugene Petersen would refer to as “long obedience in the same direction with “baby steps” from the movie, What About Bob. The offspring of that union would be Kaizen.

Incorporating Kaizen into daily life involves embracing challenges, seeking feedback, and cultivating a habit of reflection. It reminds us that improvement is a journey, not a destination, and encourages a culture of perpetual growth.


Shoshin: Embracing a Beginner Mindset

Shoshin, or the "beginner's mind," is an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. It encourages us to approach life with a fresh perspective, free from the constraints of expertise or past experiences. Shoshin invites us to cultivate curiosity, stay receptive to new ideas, and embrace the joy of discovery.

By adopting a Shoshin, we break free from the limitations of fixed thinking patterns and open ourselves to a growth mindset. It allows us to approach challenges with creativity, resilience, and an unwavering enthusiasm to learn.


I find there is a beautiful connection with the final two ideas. The first of the two is wabi-sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection.


Wabi-Sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, and the inherent flaws in life. It acknowledges the transient nature of all things and encourages an appreciation for the simple, and authentic aspects of existence. Wabi-Sabi invites us to find beauty in the asymmetrical, the weathered, and the imperfect.

In a world often obsessed with perfection, Wabi-Sabi provides a refreshing perspective that values the beauty of uniqueness and the acceptance of the inevitable cycle of creation and decay.


The second, kintsugi, is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed or dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Instead of disguising the cracks, Kintsugi highlights them, transforming the broken object into a piece of art that tells a story. It symbolizes resilience, strength, and the beauty that arises from embracing our imperfections.

Kintsugi reminds us that healing and growth often come from acknowledging and embracing our scars. It teaches us that, just like the repaired pottery, we can emerge stronger, more beautiful and with a sense of greater worth.

Combined, they communicate that who you were is not as important as who you are becoming and in the becoming “all your curves and edges… all your perfect imperfections” (thank you John Legend), is the gift you bring to the world.


These concepts, deeply rooted in Japanese philosophy, offer a profound guide for creating a life that is both meaningful and resilient.  

Here´s to  discovering a happier healthier you in 2024

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