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Make the Best Use of Yourself and Live Happily

Hironori Higashide
Professor, Graduate School of Commerce, Waseda University

There is No Longer Any Need for “Work–Life Balance”

The life style in which we attempt to strike a balance between “work,” which is what we do in order to provide for ourselves, and what we call “life,” will most likely be less common in the future. As we look back at research into what “happiness” is in the realms of sociology and psychology, we understand that as society develops, in order to feel a higher sense of well-being, we are supposed to pursue what we want to do, or what we find a deep meaning in, without bringing on too much stress to ourselves [1]. As we look to the future with this understanding, more and more people will begin considering the concept of work as time spent realizing your own goals and ambitions in relation to society, while the conventional sense that work is something that is done solely for the purpose of earning money will become less prevalent. Furthermore, we define “life” as time we spend realizing our goals in matters related to ourselves and our families. By this definition, both “work” and “life” serves to fulfill a purpose for ourselves, and the dividing line between the two will become less clear. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly common for people to try taking the things they pursue in life, such as hobbies or interests, and turning them into their profession as soon as they can. We can predict that more and more people will find happiness by structuring their own lives by going back and forth between the two.

A Society in Constant Shift Within Uncertainty

VUCA is an acronym that defines the world we live in today (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). In other words, we live in an age where the future is unpredictable, everything is changing drastically, and even the things happening right before our eyes can be interpreted in various ways, and the causes are uncertain. Of course, we can’t ignore the impact of globalization, which enables the vast numbers of talented minds around the world to be easily connected, and the advancements in technology that support it.

There are two books that explore the ways we view work and life in this day and age: The Shift and The 100-Year Life (both written by Lynda Gratton). I’ve compiled the main points in these books as I’ve interpreted them as follows:

  • This VUCA world will continue for some time.
  • One thing that can be accurately predicted is the aging of populations around the world.
  • People must pursue life-long learning and change continually, and never retire.
  • We must constantly review our own lives, and set destinations for ourselves in order to change.
  • We must embrace diversity and value ourselves even if we are different from others.
  • Communities, organizations, and partners who are able to share a common vision will become important.
  • An increasing number of people will pursue work styles where they can leverage their personal expertise, and more people will simultaneously work multiple jobs.
  • We must make use of our five senses to interact with the world around us, and learn to be creative.

At first glance, this list may make it seem like our society is turning into a difficult world to survive in. However, if you look at it from a different perspective, this allows us to distance ourselves from a life of selfless devotion (although how much of this is possible depends on the individual), and live our lives while thinking of ways we can impact society through our own volition, and spend our time being creative to act on that will power.

There are various ways to approach this. There are some who choose the path of entrepreneurship. Others may find partners who have a different set of expertise to collaborate with, or leverage their own expertise to act as a sort of producer to collaborate with companies, or even achieve their goals within the companies they work for. However, in cases where companies play a part in any way, one’s own dreams and ambitions must match the collaborating company’s philosophy and corporate culture. As Wilkinson explained in his book The Spirit Level, countries and regions that have low income disparity have higher levels of happiness and health. The same principles apply to companies as well. Companies that only aim to exploit and threaten people’s quality of life cannot serve as reliable partners. In any event, our dependence on companies will continue to decrease, and companies that are not capable of respecting the human quality of each and every individual and harness the power of their creativity will eventually lose any purposeful meaning of existence.

The Self-Actualization Model

Although this comes with the requirement that we must first structure a life in which we have all the basic necessities of life covered, those who live their lives more creatively experience higher levels of happiness and satisfaction. When you hear the word “creative,” you might imagine artists, but in our society, all you need to do is add to or subtract from some system that already exists, and create something that is not a mere copy of something else.

The starting point of this is explained under (2) in the figure below—the curiosity that springs from inside ourselves. As Teresa Amabile, a leading figure in research surrounding creativity in business, discovered, in order for us to exhibit our creative strength, it is crucial to recognize the importance of our intrinsic motivation that excites us when taking on new challenges, rather than simply relying on external incentives that promise certain rewards for certain tasks.

Figure: The internally generated development model

Once you visualize the future you want to achieve, and you can clearly envision yourself in that future, you can calculate backwards from your goal to take inventory of what you have in your possession right now that can be of use to you, and assess the things you will need to acquire and the partners you will need to find in order to achieve your goal. With these in mind, you can proceed to turning your ideas into action. Once you’ve put your plan into action, you can look back at the results, and assess what experiences and knowledge you’ve gained, and proceed to the next step in life to capitalize on what you acquired for the next experiment cycle. Meanwhile, communities built on trust are created among the partners with whom you’ve shared the vision of your goals and acted in cooperation, and become a valuable addition to your life assets.

To be able to act of your own volition to strive for results in cooperation with various people and organizations, and to run full-speed while experimenting has not been an easy thing to achieve in recent history. However, in this day and age where the relative value of things, money and information is decreasing on a daily basis, individuals can achieve great things (although not everything) by collaborating with others around them without relying on conventional companies. Until recently, most people aimlessly thought that if they only had more money and possessions than others around them, they would be able to achieve their dreams, and live happier lives. Today, we live in an age where our starting point is to consider what we ourselves want to be, and we can achieve self-actualization in creative ways, and in a sense, in an entrepreneurial spirit.

Let’s take a closer look at point (1) in the above figure, “the confidence that if you put our mind to it, you will succeed.” Even if you are able to envision your future self, if you don’t know what course of action to take, your vision will not connect to internally generated growth. This confidence is the true starting point for achieving creative self-actualization—it is crucial that this confidence is not lost in the educational process. Unfortunately, the educational system and daily life in Japan view what an individual has produced as the result of their efforts (it may be a painting or a piece of music, or even a shoot in football) not as a good attempt to face a challenge, but they evaluate the result itself, and if the quality is poor, they see it as a failure. Because of this, people begin to worry about how others will evaluate their work, and stop taking on challenges. In the past three years, I have been involved in a comparative study [2] of the entrepreneurship index across over 40 different countries. In every year of our research, the Japan index has consistently been the lowest, showing a massive disparity with other Asian countries, which rate higher than the global average. The main cause of the low entrepreneurship index of Japan is that individuals do not believe that their efforts will lead to success. In fact, in this category, Japan’s average score is exceedingly low compared to other countries.

Raising the awareness of the importance of believing in success is a matter of utmost urgency for Japanese companies, educational institutions and for Japanese society itself. In order to achieve this, we must learn to value the diverse talents of people, and the will power of individuals to create new things of their own volition by leveraging their own strengths—we must learn to value the act of engaging in ambitious efforts.

Rethinking Our Perspective on Talent

As one measure of assessing the diverse talents people acquire through experience, there is a concept called “multiple intelligences” [3]. “Multiple intelligences” refers to the various potential capacities that each of us has, which can be used to solve problems or create new things. It is said that each person possesses at least nine abilities or talents that can be used in this way [4]. These methods of measuring a variety of abilities and talents that are not based on IQ or other deviation values must be applied proactively by society as a whole to leverage the unique talents of individuals as a way of facing new challenges.

In a study I conducted in 2015, I found that for those who are entrepreneurially-inclined (even if they are not actual entrepreneurs), and those who consider themselves as valuable and are more motivated to achieve something by making the best use of their intelligence even if they feel the cards are stacked against them, tend to have a better balance in all categories of the multiple intelligences compared to those who are not entrepreneurially-inclined (see the figure below for details).

Figure: Multiple intelligences diagram

In the same study, we compared the levels of happiness of each of these groups and found that 47% of people who have a strong entrepreneurial spirit declared that they are happy, while only 15% of those with a weak entrepreneurial spirit answered the same. Furthermore, 17% of the latter declared that they are in fact unhappy, while only 5% of the former answered the same. That’s three times as many happy people, and a third as many unhappy people. When I see these numbers, I can’t help but wanting more people to take on challenges by using their own volition as their starting point.

Finally, I would like to close by introducing a woman who graduated from Waseda University and is continuing to take on new challenges to this day. As I’ve talked about before in my lectures, Chizu Nakamoto is the CEO of Ricci Everyday. There is not enough space here to go into the details of her career history, but she is someone who is driven by her own internal volition, which helped her gain many valuable experiences. She is now an entrepreneur who is successfully operating a travel bag brand in Uganda. She has received many prizes in the past for her work, and was recently nominated to represent Japan in the 2018 Chivas Venture world competition held for social entrepreneurs. She is planning her final pitch that she will make in Amsterdam in May.

We now live in an age where stories like this are possible.

  • ^ Higashide, H., 2007, “Shiawase wo Tsumugu Kigyo no Joken (What Companies Need to Generate Happiness),” Waseda Business School Review, Vol. 10.; Higashide, H., 2016, “A Model of Happiness in the Workplace,” Kindai Management Review, Vol. 4.
  • ^ Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report 2015–2017, Amway US
  • ^ Gardner, H., 1983, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, NY: Harper Collins.
  • ^ Linguistic intelligence: the ability to communicate effectively through reading, writing, and speaking; Logical-mathematical intelligence: the ability to effectively use numbers to solve problems logically; Spatial intelligence: the ability to learn and think about the world by visualizing it in 3D; Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: the ability to learn and express oneself through physical activity; Musical intelligence: the ability to express oneself musically by utilizing their sensitivity to rhythms and sounds; Interpersonal intelligence: the ability to understand people’s feelings and work well with others; Intra-personal intelligence: the ability to effectively grasp one’s own interests and goals; Existential intelligence: the ability to confront spiritual and artistic concepts, such as the meaning of life and death; Naturalist intelligence: the ability to observe, classify, and categorize animals and plants.

Hironori Higashide
Professor, Graduate School of Commerce, Waseda University

Brief Biography
1985: Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Keio University
1985: Employed at Kajima Corporation
1992: Earned his MBA (Master of Business Administration) at Imperial College London, UK
1998: Employed at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University as a lecturer
2000: Earned his Ph.D. (Doctor of Business Administration) at Imperial College London, UK
2002: Employed at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University as an assistant professor
2006: Employed at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University as a professor
2008: Employed at the Graduate School of Commerce, Waseda University as a professor
2016: Employed at the Graduate School of Business and Finance, Waseda University as a professor

Venture Kigyo no Keiei to Shien (Management and Support of Venture Businesses) (2004, Nikkei; editorial supervision by Shuichi Matsuda, edited by the Waseda Entrepreneurial Research Unit)
Shiawase wo Tsumugu Kaisha (Companies That Generate Happiness) (2010, One Proof; by Hironori Higashide and Hideo Ohkubo)
Born Global Kigyo-Ron (The Born Global Entrepreneurship Theory) (2011, One Proof; by Hironori Higashide and Hideo Ohkubo)
創業學:從執行力到幸福力 (2013, Hanlu; by Hironori Higashide and Hideo Ohkubo)
Love-Based Company: Gazelle Kigyo Seicho no Hosoku: Visionary Saiyo to Ikusei (Love-Based Company: The Rules of Growth for Gazelle Companies: Hiring and Training Visionaries) (2018, Chuokeizai-sha; edited by Hironori Higashide and the Waseda University Alumni Association Venture Tomonkai)
Developing Next Generation Leaders for Transgenerational Entrepreneurial Family Enterprises (Edward Elgar, MA, 2015)