7 Japanese Concepts That Can Improve Your Life

7 Japanese Concepts That Can Improve Your Life (wave image)

By Brett & Kate McKay • You may find this article HERE in its entirety on Art of Manliness’ website 

Like many American boys who grew up in the 1980s, I loved The Karate Kid. For months when I was five years old, I demanded that my family call me “Daniel-san” instead of Brett.

Thanks for reading this post and Brass Ring also thanks those whose content is shared here on our website. We present it in order to pass on their knowledge to our small business clients so it can help them remain informed, healthy and growing their businesses. Please bookmark our site, subscribe to our newsletter and come back for more marketing, small business & WordPress tips, advice, tools & news! - Edward A. Sanchez

Besides instilling in me a desire to crane-kick everyone, The Karate Kid also implanted a nascent interest in Japanese culture. When I was five, I remember cobbling together a small Shinto shrine out of construction paper, popsicle sticks, and Elmer’s glue so I could have a setup similar to Mr. Miyagi’s dojo in my bedroom. It’s funny to think about a five-year-old church-going kid living in the middle of Oklahoma creating a Shinto shrine for himself. 

My appreciation for Japanese culture has deepened since then and continues today. One of the things I love about the Japanese is that, like the ancient Greeks, they can take complex ideas or concepts and sum them up in a single word or phrase. These phrases can serve as reminders of how to live a flourishing life. I’ve filed away some of these Japanese concepts over the years and incorporated them into my life. 

Here are seven of my favorites:

Kaizen: Seeking Continuous Improvement

Kaizen is a Japanese term that means “continuous improvement.” It’s the idea of making small, incremental changes over time to improve your life and achieve your goals. The Japanese believe that even small changes, made consistently, can accrue significant compound interest.

We’ve written in detail about the history of kaizen and how to implement it in your life here. It’s one of our most popular articles. 

Here’s the gist: Try getting just 1% better every day. If you can make tiny improvements over months, years, and decades, you can move mountains. 

Ikigai: Finding Your Purpose

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates to “a reason for being.” It’s the idea of finding one’s purpose in life and aligning it with one’s passions, skills, and values. The Japanese believe finding and pursuing your ikigai is the key to a long and happy life. 

Ikigai is similar to the Hindu idea of dharma, which we’ve written about previously, or Nietzche’s idea of “becoming who you are.”

We’ve got lots of articles and podcasts on this subject. Here are a few of my favorites that can help you discover your ikigai:

Oubaitori: Avoiding Comparison to Others

The characters that spell out oubaitori represent four different trees that bloom in Japan in the spring: cherry, apricot, peach, and plum. Each tree blooms in its own way and in its own time, and each bears a distinct flower and fruit. Oubaitori as a concept grows out of this arboreal image and refers to the idea of avoiding the habit of comparing yourself to others and embracing your unique journey and timeline instead. 

Theodore Roosevelt (another appreciator of Japanese culture) famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Boy, was he right. I’ve noticed that I tend to get most down in the dumps when I start measuring my success against the success of others. Whenever I start doing that, I just remind myself to practice oubaitori. The word serves as a trigger to shift my focus away from others and back to my own path.

Wabi-Sabi: Embracing Imperfection

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that embraces imperfection and…

Read on…article continues HERE on Art of Manliness’ website

Leave a Reply