Exploring Rolefulness with Professor Daiki Kato


Nick: Hey, it's Nick here with The Ikigai Podcast and my guest today on episode 47 is Professor Daiki Kato. Daiki, you received a Bachelor of Education at Nagoya University in 2003, a Master of Arts at Nagoya University in 2005, and again at Nagoya University in 2008, you received your PhD in psychology. Currently, you are a professor of the College of human sciences at Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya, Japan, your area of study focuses on clinical psychology and art therapy. Thank you very much for joining me today.

Daiki: Thank you for inviting me today, Nick. I'm really happy to talk to you about my recent study.

Nick: Fantastic. Yes. So I'm really happy to be talking to you today. And I reached out to you because of a very interesting paper you wrote and co-authored with Mikie Suzuki, titled, "Rolefulness and Interpersonal Relationships." I've been thinking, or spending a lot of time thinking about the importance of roles in the context of ikigai. So when I found your paper, I was really excited. So the first word in the title, "rolefulness" piqued my curiosity, and I downloaded the paper and I printed it out. So I think we should begin by defining rolefulness. What is rolefulness?

Defining rolefulness

Daiki: Thank you. I'm very happy that you are interested in my new concept of rolefulness. I'll briefly introduce rolefulness. Rolefulness is quite a new psychological concept. And as you introduced, me and Dr. Mikie Suzuki developed this concept in 2018. Rolefulness is defined as the continuous sense of role satisfaction we have in our daily lives. Rolefulness includes two subfactors: one is social rolefulness, and the other is internal rolefulness.

Nick: I see, awesome. So yes, you write that rolefulness does not depend on specific roles, such as being parents and professionals, rather, it represents a general sense of role satisfaction, and includes these two subfactors that you've just mentioned. So would you like to go into detail into those two sub factors?

Daiki: As introduced before, rolefulness includes two sub factors; one is social rolefulness and the other is internal rolefulness. Social rolefulness is role satisfaction based on social experiences, such as interpersonal relationships. So, interpersonal relationships include so many aspects. For example, it includes items of "I have a role in the group I belong to", and "My role is necessary for other people." So, these items are included in social rolefulness. 

In contrast, internal rolefulness is a role satisfaction that is formed by internalising social rolefulness. So, in our hypothesis, the social rolefulness is developed first, then, the internal rolefulness is developed. So, internal rolefulness includes identity and confidence; for example, it includes items of "I gained confidence because of my role", and "I realised my individuality by my role." That's a simple explanation of rolefulness.

Nick: It's fascinating. So we have the social experiences in the context of role, how we engage with other people, and then from those experiences, we internalise them. And we have this sense of role satisfaction or a sense of purpose, or what you've defined as internal rolefulness. And this leads me to the actual term rolefulness. Did you come up with this term? Did you create it?

Coining the term rolefulness

Daiki: Yes. The term rolefulness is our original word, it's a new word. I have been studying several topics of clinical psychology and my main research topic is the psychological effects of art therapy. Art therapy like painting or drawing. Many kinds of methods such as painting and drawing applied for the materials of art therapy. I focused on LEGO® blocks as a material for art therapy, so have you ever played with LEGO® blocks in your childhood?

Nick: I still do, yeah. My son often gives me Star Wars LEGO® blocks.

Daiki: Me, too. I'm still playing with Lego blocks.

Nick: Fantastic.

Daiki: So LEGO® blocks are originally a toy for children, but it is a very good material for art therapy. I focused on LEGO® blocks as a material for art therapy, and investigated its effect -- psychological effects. LEGO® block creation is suitable for individual art therapy. It means one therapist and one client, and the client makes something using LEGO® blocks, and the therapist watches over and interprets the expression in the individual situation. 

But it is also good material for group therapy, not only for individuals. So, some participants, some clients, they express together. They are using blocks methods; the group members make anything they like using the blocks on the plate collaboratively. So, the collaborating work facilitates their social skills to last for others and role satisfaction. 

Many roles are formed through the process of making something with others: for example, starting blocks, passing blocks to other members, and discussing when they make things together. Each role is very small, but each are very important roles. And the roles are necessary for collaborative work: participants feel satisfaction with their roles, and it has a very good effect on our mental health and human relationships. 

And based on these findings, I thought that the sense of role satisfaction is a very important point to facilitate social communication and group dynamics. The sense of role satisfaction is a very dynamic process which is why it is necessary to give a new name for it. Based on the image of fully satisfied with role, we called it rolefulness. So that's the origin of the word rolefulness.

Nick: I see, yeah, I love the term. I think it really articulates this idea that you've just defined. And it's interesting that you mentioned that you used LEGO® block creation. One of my ikigai tribe community members and the editor of my book, Dr. Caitlin Kight, she is a certified LEGO® serious play facilitator. And in my first cohort of my coaching programme, we decided to celebrate the completion of the programme with a LEGO® serious play activity. 

Dr. Caitlin guided our cohort through this Lego block building activity, where we expressed one of our ikigai sources, we essentially built out our ikigai sources using LEGO®. And then we ended the session with a collaborative piece. And this was all done virtually, but there was still this sense of satisfaction in the activity, where each member had some sort of small role in making the final piece. 

So yeah, that LEGO® experience was quite satisfying, and I can understand how LEGO® would be helpful in a rolefulness activity. So going back to your paper, why did you write this paper? And what was the purpose of writing it?

Daiki: There are two main reasons why we wrote the paper. One is that we wanted to reveal what rolefulness is. We developed the concept of rolefulness, but the detail was not clear. Therefore, we hypothesised the subfactors of rolefulness, as I mentioned before, social and internal rolefulness. We made a psychological scale to measure rolefulness and collected a large number of samples from over 1000 high school students. 

Data and statistical analysis showed the validity of these two hypothesised factors social rolefulness and internal rolefulness. And the second reason was investigating relationships among rolefulness and other psychological factors. The result of the study showed that rolefulness has a good effect on our mental health. 

For example, it facilitates social adjustment, increases self-esteem, and saves us from a depressive mood. The study also showed the developing process of rolefulness. Social rolefulness is developed by social experience, then the experience is internalised then it becomes internal rolefulness.

Nick: Yes, this really rings true for me, when my wife and son went back to Japan for two weeks, and they got back a few days ago. And yeah, they were only away for two weeks, but I really missed them. And I think I struggled a little bit with a lack of social rolefulness, I had no social rolefulness, or no social experience with them for two weeks, other than a few FaceTime calls. And I wasn't depressed, but I did feel incomplete. I just didn't feel complete. And I felt there was something missing. 

So maybe, in a way, my role of being a father, and a husband had been put on hold. And yeah, when they came back, my role of being a father and husband now started again. So yeah, this all makes sense that we get this self esteem and we have these positive interactions in these roles, and we internalise it and feel like we have a sense of purpose. And we feel generally positive. And when we don't have those roles, we kind of lose this purpose or meaning. 

Workshop on increasing rolefulness

So it's fascinating. And going into more detail in your study, you explored rolefulness obviously, then social competence and then also maladjustment, and you applied rolefulness in education and art therapy by conducting a specific workshop, which I think you've touched on, but would you like to go into more detail about the workshop you conducted?

Daiki: So as a result of the study in developing social rolefulness, it's important as the first step therefore, we conducted a workshop focused on increasing social rolefulness. Collaborative work with others in small groups is effective to feel role satisfaction. Art expression is a good medium for the group approach and I chose LEGO® blocks as the material of the workshop as I mentioned before, we provided four pieces of about 25 centimetre squared LEGO®, green plastic plates, and combined them. 

So can you imagine, four plastic plates, so it means about 50 centimetre square plates -- very, very large plates. So it's prepared for the collaborative expression. I think that three or four participants are very good for collaborative work. So three or four participants work together and they express anything that they like using blocks. Providing adequate materials is very important, we provide enough basic blocks, specific blocks such as trees and windows, so maybe Star Wars characters are a very good idea. 

And so human figure LEGO® are also necessary for the work. So, we can make some kind of a subject using blocks, but making a human is a bit difficult, so we have human figures as it is a very good help for expression. And participants make relationships, both verbal and nonverbal ways. Their roles are divided naturally as they work. They made parks, houses, schools, and sometimes local music festivals, for example. Their expressions are various and very interesting.

Nick: Nice. I love rock music. So, fantastic.

Daiki: Yeah. All expressions are really interesting and the participants are satisfied with their work. The research evidence shows that the collaborative experience significantly increases rolefulness, especially social rolefulness. And based on the evidence, I apply this method for infants and their parents. So the original study was for adolescents or young adults, but I think it's a very good way to look at rolefulness for kids and their parents. 

We organised workshops from one to three years, or infants and their parents, very small children and parents. The workshop is the same for young adults, three or four pairs join the group workshop. And a large sized thick block called the Duplo. Do you know Duplo? They are larger sized blocks, it's very safe for the small children.

Nick: Yeah, it seems like they don't have very sharp edges. They seem a bit softer.

Daiki: Yeah. And Duplo was provided for the workshop. First, the infant and the parent make a zoo, animals from thick blocks and animal figures on the green plate. Sometimes, stacking blocks is way too difficult for small children and parents support them. After the zoo is completed, I asked them to combine their zoos and make up a big zoo. Every child and parent smiles when the zoo is completed. 

So sometimes it's not a zoo, but like a jungle. Very many animals: lions, giraffes, and zebras -- that's fantastic. So through the process, the infants have simple role satisfaction with the process of collaborative work. Parents also noticed what their children are interested in. The process also support establishing rapport, the trust between parents and children. Yeah, I like the workshop very much.

Nick: Sounds like it was a success. And hearing all these benefits from the workshop and this study of rolefulness, this got me thinking there seems to be the opportunity of and a balance of self expression and collaboration in our roles. And so we have this opportunity to express our unique self, but also collaborate with others to make something meaningful and beneficial to all. 

And so in your example, combining all the zoos to make a larger zoo, almost like a jungle, seems to bring a deeper sense of enjoyment and satisfaction and meaning to the workshop. And it gave parents the role to help their child but maybe for the children was this opportunity for them to express themselves. And so it sounds like you had two groups, you had adolescents doing something and you had parents and children doing the zoo project. 

And in both cases, it seemed to have these very positive social results. That I guess maybe the participants internalised later after the experience. So yeah, role really seems to matter in our life. We have multiple roles.

The rolefulness scale

But then you could always ask the question, how do we measure rolefulness, and you developed a scale? So you've developed a rolefulness scale. So would you like to talk about the scale?

Daiki: Okay. So I introduced the details of the scale. I'm a psychologist, our mind or the psychological aspects, we can't see the details by using eyes, but how to measure is very important in psychology. So making a scale to measure psychological concepts is very important. So I developed the scale for measuring rolefulness. So I will talk about the scale. It includes two factors of social rolefulness and internal rolefulness, it is a five point scale, it means participants answer each item from agree to disagree, agree is a five point at the max and disagree is one point, it's a minimum point.

Nick: Okay. Is that a Likert?

Daiki: Yeah, Likert scale. So in the past, I talked about social rolefulness. So the factor of social rolefulness includes items as follows: the first one is, I'm useful in society, the second one is I can apply my strong point for society, the third is my role is necessary for other people, the fourth is I have a role in the group I belong to, and the last one is I carry out a social role. These five items are included in the social rolefulness factor. 

And next I'll talk about the internal rolefulness factor. The factor includes five items as follows: the first one is I realised my individuality by my role, the second is I'm satisfied with my role, the third is I gain confidence because of my role, the fourth is my role brings out my individuality, and the last one is I have a role that is only mine. So both social and internal role are concerned of rolefulness but a little different. These items show that social rolefulness is concerned with our interpersonal relationships, and our connection with the society we belong to. 

However, while social rolefulness is based on social context, internal rolefulness consists of more authentic and personal aspects, such as self identity and confidence. We will examine the relationships among rolefulness and other psychological factors using the scale and the quadrant model in the future. I'll talk about the quadrant model later in the interview.

Nick: Awesome. So the internalisation of rolefulness, is that where our feelings come from? So we have these feelings of satisfaction or happiness, or perhaps we have the sense of growth. Or maybe sometimes, we might even have frustration with our roles. So is the internal aspect the feeling aspect of rolefulness?

Daiki: Yes.

Nick: I think these statements would be very helpful to reflect on our roles. So for example, I'm useful in society, or I have a role in the group I belong to, or I gained confidence because of my role. So we could almost rephrase them to be questions. For example, my role is necessary for other people, we could ask, how is my role necessary for other people? 

So I think that would be very helpful to journal -- to write on these statements, and you'd get a sense of your rolefulness. So, I really like these scales. It's a fascinating area as a researcher, you're trying to measure or you're trying to understand rolefulness. So you create a scale, and then to create the scale, you have to think proactively about what items do I include in the scale? And then can we measure each item? So it's very helpful, and it's fascinating. 

And as you mentioned, we'll talk about this interesting quadrant model that you've talked about. And that will explain, I guess, it'll give an overview of how we can understand rolefulness. So let's move on to an area I'm very interested in, and that's ikigai and also yarigai. And, as you probably know now, ikigai has become a very popular word, I could say, a boom word. 

In the West, a lot of coaches, psychologists, and entrepreneurs use the word ikigai, but in a very different context. And then we have this word yarigai, and yeah, I lived in Japan, so I know yarigai is a far more common word than ikigai. And Japanese don't really talk about ikigai that much. So it's fascinating how the word's so popular outside of Japan now. But Japanese themselves don't really talk about ikigai, but they use this word yarigai, I think almost daily. 

So yeah, yarigai and ikigai, and the results of your study showed that social rolefulness buffered the association between lack of social competence and social acceptance, and one's emotional connection with others and their sense of acceptance are important to improve their mental health. And so this is where I thought ikigai comes in, like this is where I think ikigai can be experienced in the context of roles, having this emotional connection with others. And I tend to call this intimacy.

What is role confusion?

And something that can happen to all of us, and maybe something we all experienced to some degree during COVID-19, and maybe even now, for some people was role confusion. And that's something you write about in your paper. So what is role confusion, and how does it impact ikigai?

Daiki: Okay, you pointed out a very important thing, and I really agree with your opinion. So both yarigai and ikigai are very important words to understand the rolefulness, the connection is very important. I think emotional connection with others -- intimacy and attachment -- is very important to feel ikigai. Our social role is very functioning originally, I mean that role itself doesn't have emotion, it's a role. 

For example, you are now the founder and organiser of the Ikigai Tribe, and so when you are in your family, you have the role of a father. Me, too, so now I'm talking as a psychological researcher, but when I get back to home, I'm a father and husband. So it's just a role. But as you said, the emotions such as pleasure and satisfaction, which accompany our role are very important for our mental health. Face to face communication and intimacy with others are necessary to feel role satisfaction, but this rare communication is restricted under the COVID 19 pandemic. So in Japan, the situation is now continuing. So what about in your country? Is it okay to go out and communicate with each other now?

Nick: Yeah, restrictions have really dropped off so we don't have to wear masks, we can travel freely. We don't even have to check in to restaurants anymore. So it's almost back to normal. Still not the same, though. There's still this uncertainty, because we still read about COVID and still people are being impacted by it that they're getting sick or in some cases dying. But yeah, Melbourne actually had the longest lockdown, I think one of the cities that had the longest lockdown. 

And for me, it wasn't too impactful because I work from home. But the psychological burden of going outside, wearing a mask, you're walking down the street, you see someone, and you have this unease and you kind of walk out of their way, you maintain the social distance. So yeah, every time you did that, you kind of felt this layer of burden, and I guess many people lost their role in COVID. So yeah, it's good that we're getting back to what we were accustomed to, but Japan still seems to have restrictions.

Daiki: Yes, now I still continue to wear masks, everyone's wearing masks, and the communication, I feel restricted. So let's go back to the subject. So in my experience, I couldn't meet my students for a long time because of the lockdown and university lectures were conducted online, I really felt a sense of loss from it. Role confusion is a state where we can't feel and value our role and we're not satisfied with it. The state is not good for ikigai and having an emotional connection with others is important to feel rolefulness and ikigai.

Nick: This really makes sense to me if we understand that our role could be a source of ikigai. And from engaging in that role, you feel a sense of purpose, you feel happiness, you feel connection. If you have this role confusion, because of some external factor: COVID-19 or difficulty in relationship, I guess it impacts your well-being, your happiness, and ikigai. So this leads to an important question, how can we maintain rolefulness and avoid role confusion during challenging times like COVID-19? 

Is it a case of yarigai, doing things that are worthwhile and having a positive social impact. But that's not easy if we're in something like a lockdown. And you write on the importance of engaging in ordinary activities, such as greetings and conversations and expressing gratitude to people you know well. Yeah, so how do we maintain rolefulness and avoid role confusion?

Daiki: Yeah, I really agree that small roles are very important to maintain rolefulness and also for ikigai and yarigai is also a key term to explain rolefulness, I think. So, I like to talk about it later and please wait for a while. So, first I'll talk about rolefulness. Our study found that social rolefulness is developed first and then internal rolefulness is formed. Based on the findings, we constructed the quadrant model that I mentioned before -- the quadrant model of rolefulness.

The quadrant model of rolefulness

The word quadrant means four categories, four areas. So, I hypothesise four areas using the rolefulness scale, so I'll explain about it. The model includes four categories of rolefulness development, the first group is called integrated, it is the most developed group. So in the group, both social and internal rolefulness are very high. And this group is the most developed group, and the mental health of the group members are quite good. 

In contrast, the second group called immature, is a group with low social and internal rolefulness. So both social and internal rolefulness are very low in the immature group members. The group has risks of mental problems and need support to facilitate rolefulness. The third is the developing group, in this group, social rolefulness has already gained but internal rolefulness is not developed yet in this group. So, it means social rolefulness is high but internal rolefulness is low. 

And the last one is what we call groundless, it has low social rolefulness and high internal rolefulness. As I said before, the social rolefulness is developed before internal rolefulness theoretically, but the order is reversed in this group. It is a bit strange, maybe based on incorrect self-image or overconfidence for themselves. 

So I think that the members of the groundless group feel confident. And I can communicate with others very well, but they don't have enough social skills or communication skills actually, so the gap caused groundless, I think. So, overall, developing social rolefulness correctly is important for the group members. And if we develop social rolefulness by constructing daily human relationships, we can form good internal rolefulness, and we can reach the integrated stage that is very important.

Nick: I see, so you actually sent me an image of this quadrant, and I'll put that in the show notes. But to visualise it, if we think of a quadrant box, on the bottom left is immature, so low social rolefulness and low internal rolefulness. Then next to that, on the bottom on the right, groundless is low social rolefulness, but high internal rolefuness, which you mentioned, was quite strange to achieve. 

Then on the top left is developing, which is better than the bottom two, so there is high social rolefulness, but still there's low internal rolefulness, so maybe that points to a lack of self-belief or self-confidence, perhaps. And then where we want to be is on the top right, which is high social rolefulness and then high internal rolefulness. So clearly, the goal is for us to be at this integrated level of rolefulness. And this really got me thinking, Daiki about a problem in Japan. 

And it's spreading to other countries, but it seemed to start in Japan, it's quite unique to Japan. And it's this form of severe social withdrawal called hikikomori. Typically, young men lock themselves in their bedroom from their parents house for years or even decades, and they don't participate in society at all. 

So using your quadrant model, would we place hikikomori as only immature, meaning low social rolefulness and low internal rolefulness? Or could there be some hikikomori, they do have some internal rolefulness but no social rolefulness and groundless, yeah, what are your thoughts on that?

Daiki: Yeah. So that's a very interesting opinion, and I'm very happy today that I can talk about hikikomori with you. Actually, I didn't think about the connection between rolefulness and hikikomori. But as you pointed out, the connection is very important. I think that a hikikomori person is not just one situation, they have several situations, and some of hikikomori people stay in the immature rolefulness stage, but some belong to the developing stage. 

So perhaps some hikikomori people remain in the groundless stage. So maybe integrated hikikomori, there's a few I think. But I'm really interested if as a person they have the features of hikikomori and groundless. It is very interesting and probably they need social support. So that if the person is in the developing stage and they are in the stage of hikikomori. So if they can gain the social rolefulness, gradually, they will gain the internal rolefulness, so, they can adapt gradually to the society. 

So, it is very good, but the groundless group, they themselves feel, "I have confidence and I have no problem." So they have internal rolefulness -- they feel that they don't have any mental problem themselves. So, it's very difficult to support them. But in Japanese society, some hikikomori adolescents and young people are staging the groundless group. So it is a very serious problem and it is very good to point to future research. Yeah. So, thank you for your opinion. So if we have a chance to talk about that term in the future.

Nick: Yeah, I was, I was jokingly going to say it could be your next research or study project, you could write a paper on this. And yeah, we could have you back on the podcast. I've always wanted to do an episode on hikikomori because it seems like such a devastating problem. It's bad for the individual. It's bad for the family, it's bad for the community. It has all these negative effects on society, and there seems to be a lack of assistance and help with the problem in Japan. 

Relation of social rolefulness to social experiences

But yeah, that could be a discussion for another time. But you wrote on social rolefulness, and how it's correlated with social experiences. And this does make sense to me. So would you like to expand on this correlation?

Daiki: Social rolefulness is theoretically correlated with our social experiences. Interpersonal communication is especially important, we need to develop social and communication skills to establish and maintain good relationships with others. Therefore, we hypothesise that people with satisfactory social and communication skills can achieve adequate social rolefulness. In recent society, our communication style is changing, and internet technology is developed. 

It's really useful. I live far from you. In fact, you are in Melbourne, but we can enjoy talking, we use the internet now. So it is very useful for us. For example, Twitter, Instagram, and many social networking services are very common and useful. But communication on a platform is very simple. And especially children and younger people have less opportunity to learn real social skills. 

I think it's a very important problem for developing social skills for children. Sometimes the lack of social skills and maybe these factors cause social problems and decrease our ikigai, therefore maintaining social rolefulness is important for us.

Nick: Yeah, I totally agree. And I thought a lot about this, and I reflected on my business. So my entire business depends on the internet. And I'm extremely grateful for the technology we have. It allowed me to connect with many other people from many different countries and on some of my coaching calls, it's been very intimate and very meaningful communication. 

But as you mentioned, there are also aspects of the internet that do concern me, especially social media, and it has become addictive for many people. And people looking for that dopamine hit of validation, getting positive comments from others, often from people they don't even know. And yeah, this results in people constantly checking their phone, and it's very unhealthy, addictive behaviour. And a recent trend seems to be that the internet is now conditioning us to have shorter attention spans, these shorter videos, these reels less than a minute have been very popular now. 

So yeah, I have concerns as a father, I guess that this is very addictive, and it will result in people only consuming content, and they won't be creating this opportunity to collaborate and engage with others in role, role engagement, it might be reduced. And then we have less meaningful social experiences. And as you mentioned, that will impact our overall level of ikigai. So yeah, technology is like a double edged sword, it's got positive things. 

But these negative aspects or implications, or almost sort of side effects we could say. And it's consuming our life more and more. So it's a real concern. And this kind of goes into internal rolefulness in terms of confidence and identity. So I think, our social experience now because it's either in person or online, influences our internal rolefulness. So yeah, would you like to expand on this as well, internal rolefulness includes this idea of confidence and identity.

Daiki: Okay, I'll talk about the details of internal rolefulness. We formed internal rolefulness based on social rolefulness, and it includes confidence and identity as you introduced. Self-esteem is defined as one's belief and confidence in their own ability and value. And it developed as a result of positive relationships with others. For instance, the experience of being accepted or valued by others facilitates self-esteem. 

According to Erikson's development theory. Erik Erikson is a very famous developmental psychologist, and so, through his theory, the establishment of one's identity is a main theme in adolescence, it's a very important topic in adolescence. In this period, interpersonal relationships become more complex than those in earlier developmental stages, like in their childhood, and it causes role confusion. In addition, the internal rolefulness scale we developed includes the item, "I realise my individuality by my role." 

Therefore, the developmental process of identity on rolefulness affects each other, so they connect very strongly to each other. And so then, I'll talk about another topic, the word of yarigai we talked about before.

Nick: Just before you do, so the Erikson model, it's like stages of psychological development. and adolescence, is, I guess, that age when you're a teenager, and you are kind of forced to think about your future, you're finishing your education, you're thinking about, what will I do? Will I go to university, will I get a job? So I guess as teenagers, we have this sense of pressure. 

We're trying to choose our role professionally. And we actually don't know, because we really don't have any life experience. So yeah, I imagine at this age with strong social pressure, you have to decide your future. What am I going to study at university, there would be this strong sense of confusion like oh, what role will I take on and then your identity in a state of limbo, you really don't know who you are. So that's interesting. 

So being a teenager is quite a hard period because you have no life experience, really. But then your parents, school, the government, all these institutions are saying, you've got to decide what you will study for the next four years so that you can have a job. But you know, for the next 10, 20, 30 years, Erikson has these stages of psychosocial development. Yeah. From infants to older adults. And I like to look it up when I read your paper. So I might include an image, but it's quite in depth, there's about 10 phases or 8 phases. 

And actually, it's kind of scary, because it starts off as an infant trust, versus mistrust. And then, at the end of your life, as you're going older, it could end with either integrity, or despair. So it's a very interesting model. So let's move on. I think you're about to get into yarigai.

Daiki: So yeah, yarigai is also a key term to understand internal rolefulness. According to the Japanese dictionary, yarigai means worthwhile and enjoyable. I'll talk about yarigai a little more. The term yarigai is a Japanese word, it's one word, but originally, it includes two words: yari and gai. The term gai is common in ikigai and yarigai. So gai is common in both words. And the word gai includes several meanings. So actually, it's very difficult to explain the detail and the original meanings in English. 

It's very difficult for me, but I'll try. The main meaning of gai is efficacy. Yari is the word  for behaviour, so yarigai means self-efficacy based on our behaviour. So I think it's a very good word. It's really similar to internal rolefulness. Internal rolefulness is a word concerned with both self-efficacy and behaviour. So yarigai and internal rolefulness are very similar aspects, I think.

Nick: I see. Yeah, I remember the expression yarigai ga aru, they're so common. And I might say to a friend, or I'm going to study music, or I'm going to join the gym. And they would often reply with our yarigai ga aru, like, oh, that's worthwhile, or that's almost like an effective use of your time or your energy. Whereas in English, we really don't have one set expression like yarigai ga aru. Like, that's worth doing. We would never say that. 

If you say, Nick, I'm going to learn shakuhachi. I wouldn't say oh, that's worth doing. I'd go Oh, wow. Fantastic. Or, oh, that might be difficult. Or that might be fun. So yeah, this kimari monku culture that Japanese have, this set expression culture is very, very helpful. Because these set expressions seem to encapsulate either a shared idea, or a psychological concept, or even a philosophy. And Japanese has many words or expressions, whereas we don't really have them in English. 

Increasing rolefulness

It's fascinating. Yeah, so this sense that behaviours are what we do in the context of our roles, and maybe that we do them well or do them effectively. Yeah, that makes sense that we feel that we are probably having this positive impact in our roles and relationships. So we have that internal rolefulness because, I guess we have this idea that what we're doing is worth doing or is effective. Yeah. So that's a good way for us to segue into how can we increase our rolefulness in our daily lives?

Daiki: Establishing good relationships with family and the community is important. I think we live in our own communities and have relationships with family members, relatives, and friends, which provide many chances to increase rolefulness in our daily lives. That's not a special occasion. So, in our environment, in our daily lives, there are many chances to increase rolefulness, I think. 

Engaging in ordinary activities such as greetings, conversations, like now, and expressing gratitude to familiar people are important to developing rolefulness. So, as we are talking before, now, the internet technology is developing, and I think this zoom communication is very similar to face-to-face communication. I think it has a very good chance to increase in rolefulness. But as you said before, applications like Twitter or Instagram, in Japan, many high school students or junior high school students are enjoying a tiktok.

Nick: Tiktok. Yes.

Daiki: Very short videos, it is very popular with young people. So I think it's very difficult to increase rolefulness in such a very short communication. So I think, face-to-face, like this conversation is very important to have an increase in rolefulness. And we really need support from many others. Conversely, our daily role helps many other people. So we help each other -- it's a very important point. 

Sometimes it is difficult to notice our own role is useful for someone but every role we do helps someone. So if we can notice that point, it's a very good point to increase rolefulness. We noticed that we really increase rolefulness and accepting roles of each other is very important, I think.

Nick: I agree this is important. And what I found really interesting, I guess, the key takeaway for me from your paper was it's these ordinary activities, it's the greetings, it's the conversations, it's the expressing gratitude. And like this morning, I was able to grab my son and give him a playful hug. And it was only for three seconds but it felt good. And it was playful. 

And normally, he tries to fight me off. But he just got back home a few days ago, so it was this playful, fun hug. And that's, I guess, me being a father, and he's allowing me to be a father at that moment. He thought, okay, I'll let you hug me. And so that idea of accepting roles, letting other people express themselves through roles, that's really important, too. So you have your own role. But I think we have to embrace the role of other people. 

And this got me thinking, we always talk about setting goals. Setting goals is something many people talk about for growth and development. But I imagine it would be very helpful to define your roles. What type of person do you want to be? What kind of values do you want to express in the context of various roles, so I could think, oh, I want to be a playful, loving, caring father. And then I want to be a helpful, encouraging, inspiring coach or something. 

But I don't think we do that. We definitely think about our future goals, but we don't seem to think about what's my role? So do you think it would be a worthwhile exercise to define your various roles?

Daiki: Not to change the subject, I think the example of hugging your son is very important to understand for developing rolefulness. Hugging is a very short and small behaviour, but the action is very important to both you and your son. So probably your son feels very safe and loved by you. It is very good for developing your son's rolefulness. But it's not just for your son, it's very important for you, too. So when you're hugging your son, you have a role of a father for your son. 

So it's beautiful, your rolefulness. So that kind of interaction is very important. And you talked about goal or goal setting and that point is also important. But I think, for example, about entrance exams for school or choosing jobs, so that is a very simple goal, to pass the exam or to be a member of a company, so it is a very clear and simple goal. But about rolefulness, we are developing rolefulness through our life, there is no goal. 

Even if I turn 80 or maybe 90 years, rolefulness is still developing. So it is a very interesting point. So I'd like to continue to study and develop rolefulness. Our study now just focused on adolescents or young adults. But in the future, I'd like to study other generations, like everyday people or their children. Thank you for your opinion.

Nick: I mean, it almost seems like going back to your quadrant model, that we should strive to have an integrated rolefulness. So high social rolefulness and then have this high internal rolefulness. And in a way that seems to be, we could almost describe that as self-actualising, we're sort of becoming this effective person in society where we have high social rolefulness. But we also feel good as a person because we internalise that, and we're contributing to others, we're developing other people's rolefulness and our own at the same time. 

And I guess that makes life feel worth living, which is this theme of ikigai. So, I really think a role can be a source of ikigai. Would you agree that one of our roles as a father or as a researcher can be a source of ikigai?

Daiki: Yeah, so rolefulness and ikigai, they relate to each other very strongly. Ikigai includes a very wide meaning -- several meanings. The concept of role is a very important part of ikigai. I think there are small ikigai in each role or job. For example, small roles can also be a source of ikigai: like washing dishes in my house or doing jobs, it's a role, but each role is very small. But if we continue to do some good roles, it will be ikigai. So it's very connected, I think.

Nick: This reminds me of the expression, chanto suru, do things properly in our role. So if you're a good husband, maybe sometimes you cook dinner and you clean up, but you do those activities with care with love. You have that role satisfaction -- that rolefulness. So the little things matter. 

And this is what I love about Japanese culture: Japanese understand and recognise the small things really do matter, they're really important to do things well, to appreciate the small things. In the West, there is this tendency to be focused on the big goal, the dream. So that's what I've learned from Japanese culture, like the small things matter -- doing things properly, appreciating small things. 

Advice for people to feel more rolefulness

And it really ties into this idea of rolefulness. You know, greetings, conversations, hugs. So the small seems to matter more than the big dreams. So I think this is a unique perspective and important perspective, and it is a type of wisdom that comes from Japan. And I really appreciate. So we should probably end but I do have one more question or a few more questions. I actually have three more. So what's your advice for people who want to feel more rolefulness?

Daiki: So the conversation about big goals or small roles are a very important point, I think. Especially in Japanese society, I feel that it is very difficult to have a big dream for young people. I think high school students or university students feel very pressured and they have difficulty to have a dream. So it is very heavy and not good for their mental health. So my advice to young people, I hope they feel more about their daily roles, daily small roles. 

As you said, conversation with friends or families and doing house work. So maybe they feel very small, and everyone does that, and it's not a special thing, but it is very important. They can feel confident and satisfied with it. It's a very happy thing, so changing their way of thinking is very important to increase rolefulness.

Nick: Thank you. Great advice. Yeah, focus on these actions of your role and conversation. I think in conversation, we were given the mind and the brain and the voice and the years to have engaging conversations. So I think talking to people is very important. I always encourage people to call an old friend, reconnect with an old friend because they can have a wonderful conversation. So thank you for that advice. And thank you for your time today, Daiki. So, what is your ikigai? What is one of your ikigai?

Daiki's ikigai

Daiki: It's a very big question. My ikigai, so I have several ikigai: one is just now, I'm talking with you as a psychological researcher. So the role is one of my important ikigai. Having success in social roles is one of my ikigai. So I'm very happy and feel ikigai when other people are interested in our research. This time, you wrote about my paper and contacted me, it really increased my ikigai-kan. The other aspect is that my ikigai and my more personal aspects, like the relationship with my family and friends, and of course, hobbies, are very important for me. 

So in other words, it's like my identity. Recently, I've been thinking about ikigai, that the balance of the social role and my private identity are both very important. So both are very important for my ikigai. But maybe my answer is changing in the future, ikigai is changing. It's a very interesting point of ikigai. So I hope you study about ikigai, you continue ikigai work, and convey your ikigai method all over the world.

Nick: Thank you. Thank you for that support. And, yeah, one of my ikigai is researching and reading papers by people like you. So I really appreciate the work and effort you put into your paper. And it was really a joy to discover your paper and read it, and then connect with you. And then have you on the podcast. So thank you so much for being a guest and spending your time with me today. And we should end with how can people reach out to you if they want to connect with you? Do you have a Twitter account or a website?

Daiki: The website is fine, I think. We do interviews on my website, and there's my contact address.

Nick: Okay. I'll put that in the show notes so people can find that. So yeah, thank you again, Daiki, so much for your time today. And I look forward to our next conversation, maybe in person or we could have you back on the podcast with another paper. Thank you.

Daiki: Thank you very much for today. 

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