It’s that time of year again! With a brand new year upon us, we are reminded of the opportunity for new challenges and change in our lives, signaled by the gym membership specials, weight-loss commercials, and new organizational products aimed to streamline our lives. Each January, we are challenged to formulate a list of resolutions for the New Year, most of which, we can barely remember by Valentine’s Day.
While I am certainly a proponent of goals and taking time to reflect on new resolutions, I’d like to challenge us all to try something a little different in 2019 … Shokunin Kishitsu—a Japanese virtue meaning, “the Craftsman’s Spirit.” The Japanese have coined this phrase to describe a work ethic and sense of pride one should take in everything one does. So how might this value change the way we approach the year 2019?
A Sense of Purpose
The idea of Shokunin Kishitsu asks us who we want to be rather than what we want to be. The idea is not merely a goal to be achieved but rather a way of being that promotes inner growth in the process of achieving our goals. Here, the journey is just as valuable as the destination. Rather than our New Year’s Resolutions being a simple list to check off, this concept forces us to approach the big and small tasks of life with our best efforts. This requires character. The accomplishment of a task may not be one that warrants praise or draws attention, but our best efforts must be given nonetheless. When we can turn our attention toward the growing in the process rather than our end goal being the mere result, we are bound to be more fulfilled in working toward growth rather than mere change.
Intrinsic Value vs. Extrinsic Reward
The inherent values in the concept of Shokunin Kishitsu do not discriminate between tasks. Rather the idea is that each of us bring our best to whatever task is before us—whether it be mopping the floors or preparing for a career changing interview. These ideas require that we give our best because we know it is right to do so instead of being motivated by an external reward such as attention from others. Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, Shokunin Kishitsu cannot be measured, meaning that we must be motivated by the intrinsic value of doing our best with the task itself rather than focusing only on the measurable result that brings praise from outside sources. It is in keeping our eyes forward on our own journey rather than on others that true Shokunin Kishitsu can be achieved.
Moving Toward Instead of Running Away
Shokunin Kishitsu means taking pride in who you are and the work that you do. It is knowing your value and owning a desire to enhance your craft. The Japanese value propels us forward to continue learning and growing in both who we are and what we do. This may seem obvious but the truth is, I find that New Year’s Resolutions often promote the opposite by encouraging us to run away—to run away from looking the way we fear we might, to run away from being less impressive to others than we’d like to be, to run away from feeling like the failure we’ll be if we don’t succeed. While good results may come, these results are driven by fear and will likely not ease these fears of failure or the feeling that we are not enough. Instead, if we own the ideas imbedded in Shokunin Kishitsu, our identity is secure and we are free to succeed and fail along the journey of merely bringing our best to a task.
In reflecting on the values inherent in the idea of Shokunin Kishitsu, I can’t help but wonder how these ideas might change things for us as women in the New Year. How might our daily lives be different if we focused on growing within our own unique gifts by doing our best rather than merely striving toward the end result of completing a task? It is exciting to imagine the possibilities that might occur in our relationship with ourselves and our relationships with others if we focus on growth and let the rest fall into place.
May you be blessed by Shokunin Kishitsu in the New Year!