Lonely old men and ikigai

In November I attended the Mashing Up Conference again. I really love this event because it’s “cool”. It has a casual vibe and is just a bit edgier than your average D&I “empowerment” conference. The team do try to bring some different ideas to the stage as well as some local legends.

I was happy to join two discussions where I could listen to the wry and laser sharp insights of one of those legends, Chizuko Ueno, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo who used her entrance ceremony speech as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the reality of institutional gender discrimination in Japan. Ueno sensei has an amazing delivery style where she challenges with the sweetest, most innocent question that just stops other panelists in their tracks. It is magic to watch!

In the first session, Ueno sensei talked about the family structure – here is the info from the Mashing Up website.

家族のカタチ2019 – 家族 is the bestという呪縛Family Diversity – Time to Reshape the Family Structure「家族末永く仲良く=素晴らしい」。そんな価値観が強い日本社会で、家族とのつながりに苦しんでいる人がいるのも事実。おひとりさま問題、介護問題、夫婦別姓問題も含めて、家族とはどうあるべきか。そのあり方を問い直します。

“Families that get along forever = wonderful.” This value is strong in Japanese society, but it is also true there are people who are suffering due to their family relationships. What should families be like, including people who are alone, people caring for family members, and husbands and wives having different family names? Those things will be reconsidered.

One idea in particular struck me in relation to my work on Ikigai and creating long and healthy lives worth living.

Talking on the subject of 介護 (elder care), Ueno sensei mentioned that she is hearing many adult children say

“I will look after my mother because I love her. But my father?! No way! I can’t stand him.”

It struck me as such a sad and terrible view. I thought about all the fathers who have been focused on their companies with no time for their families. The result is fathers who are so focused on financially supporting the family that they become alienated from the lack of relationship.

Men’s ikigai and their role in the family

A few weeks ago as part of my Ikigai research, I met with Dr. Akihiro Hasegawa, Associate Professor at Toyo Eiwa University and an ikigai researcher. He told me a similar story. Japanese men who live in multi-generational households with their sons after retirement report a decrease in their ikigai. Dr. Hasegawa explains that this is because their ikigai was so tied up in their self identity as the breadwinner, the head of the household, that when the generational roles shift, they lose their sense of self and purpose. Dr. Hasegawa’s research shows a strong link between having an ikigai and better health, slower onset of dementia and so on.

(As a side note, I asked if there was any impact to living with adult daughters and the answer was no. It seems that the father’s ego can survive that relationship into old age!)

Again, this idea of isolated fathers struck me as so sad and yet also so avoidable if we can change the working style and support people living different types of partnerships at home with an emphasis on family first. Glen Wood is doing a lot to raise awareness on パパハラ(Papa Hara – paternity harassment). It isn’t easy for men to ask for permission to break from the サラリマン salariman stereotype and spend time with their families. But the social and personal costs of isolation in old age for these types of people are no longer sustainable.

What do you think?

How can we start to address this problem? Some efforts are being made at the policy level but what can private enterprises and individuals do to support a healthier and happier second life and what might be the positive impact on society from that.

Expand your perspective

I thought the session using cards was interesting to see differences between people. It helps understand that people have different interpretations and something they look at things which I do not care about.

2019 Points of You Corporate Workshop Participant

One of the most valuable takeaways that I hear as a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant using Points of You® in my workshops, is when participants are able to internalise that there are multiple points of view in any discussion. Of course, most of us comprehend this intellectually but in my workshops I love to see what really internalising this means to participants, especially in terms of applying that back in the workplace.

And diversity of perspective is not just about other people, how can we expand our own point of view? If we approach a challenge or an opportunity with a different world view, can we influence a different outcome?

What is “expanding” in Points of You®?

Countless points of view

Expanding is the second of four stages in the Points of You® method. It is described on the website as follows:

“In this stage we search for the unknown, not knowing where it may lead us. We allow a shift from our familiar comfort zone– to a world of new opportunities, insights and WOW moments. At the end of this stage we know this:
Anything is possible.”

https://freethoughtblogs.com/thoughtsofcrys/2017/03/02/memes-corrected/ – With a commentary about research and how to reduce ambiguity

5 ways to expand your point of view

Below I share 5 ways to expand your point of view, be open to other perspectives and generally give yourself a chance to get unstuck from self-limiting beliefs…all without using Points of You® 😉

1. Do the trusted ten exercise

Then find someone outside your regular group to talk with. Diverse opinions don’t just happen, we have to reach outside our daily experience.

When was the last time you had a decent chat with someone outside your age group, gender, race, sexuality?

Living as a foreigner in Tokyo offers some amazing opportunities to meet people from all over the world and find out about their world view.

Expanding @ Sun and Moon Yoga

2. How fascinating!

In March 2019, when I was presenting about Ikigai at the Gross Global Happiness Conference at UPEACE in Costa Rica, Juan Jose Reyes M.D, Founder of Mindstay, suggested using this reflective statement to approach our reactions to situations. Notice that you are getting annoyed? Feel your teeth clenching? You chest tightening?

Comment to yourself “How fascinating!”

Observe your physical sensations, what is going on? What is happening here? How is this response serving me? How do I want to be in this situation?

Then you can expand your choice of responses based on this awareness of your body.

3. “Thoughts are not facts”

Lean In Japan Entrepreneur member and owner of Quest Tokyo, Kirsten O’Connor, used to remind me of this all the time!

We tell so many stories to ourselves with our interpretations of a perceived slight, a shady glance, a terrible wrong inflicted on us.

During my work with Tara Mohr on her Playing Big Facilitators Training Programme in 2018, we did an excellent activity forcing us to brainstorm 20 possible…as well as ridiculous… interpretations of the facts of a situation. In individual coaching, Tara suggested that the reason my client hadn’t replied to email was not because my work was terrible but because they had fallen hopelessly in love with me and could not be professional around me! This was so ridiculous but also within the realm of the possible (obviously I’m irresistible) that I could at least see that there were ways I could expand my approach

4. Channel Littlefinger

“Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives I play a little game. I assume the worst. What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?”

Lord Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones
Source: Vanity Fair

Regular readers will know that I am a GOT (and Harry Potter) fan, mostly for the “great conversations in elegant rooms” rather than the bloody battle scenes. Whilst Littlefinger is generally not a role model for me, his approach of expanding his response can be useful. As a proponent of positive psychology though, I tend to think, “What’s the best reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?” This positive expansion helps you to focus on opportunities not obstacles…which brings me to….

5. Obstacles as opportunities

Yes, I do love Spartan Races and I’m about to join the next Japan race on July 6th. Obstacle Course Racing is a great way to build resilience and also to practice “expanding”. Not just about muscles but also about your realm of what is possible for you. The self-limiting belief “I’ll never be able to do this!” can quickly be overturned by the realisation you just nailed the spear throw!

Just this morning, I caught myself saying “I don’t trust myself!” as I jumped up to reach a bar. When I changed my self talk and event went so far as to say it out loud “I trust myself” my performance improved. It might be a placebo, it could just be practice but you know what, I’ll take it! Language matters.

Read about my take on all 4 parts of the Points of You® Method. Pause, Expand, Focus, Doing.

Want to try a Points of You® Workshop with Jennifer Shinkai?

Contact me here

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