How Can We Enhance Our Rolefulness?

Episode Transcription 

Nick: Hey, it's Nick Kemp here with episode four of the Rolefulness Podcast back with Professor Daiki Kato. And today we are discussing increasing rolefulness. Good to be talking with you again, Daiki.

Daiki: Thank you today. I think how to increase rolefulness is an important topic for us.

Nick: I totally agree it is important. So if you don't mind, Daiki, I would like to start this episode a bit selfish. But I'd like to read a quote from my book Ikigai-kan: Feel a Life Worth Living.

Daiki: Of course, let's start with the topic of Ikigai-kan. 

Role as a source of ikigai

Nick: Thank you. So quoting from my book here, I wrote:

'Our roles are the hats we consciously and unconsciously put on to adapt our behaviours to meet the expectations and needs of others. Our roles give us the opportunity to express our values, feel a sense of purpose, and improve ourselves. 

Everyone is part of multiple social groups, and in each of those contexts, we may have a distinct, unique role. It is vital to identify and enact these roles because they keep us connected to other people, and underpin our sense of worth and sense of self.' 

So I think I was trying to say that a role can be like a source of ikigai. So clearly our roles matter. They give us a sense of identity and purpose. 

As such, I think it would be helpful to discuss today, how we can increase our rolefulness. So yeah, Daiki, would you say our roles can be a source of ikigai?

Daiki: Yes, so ikigai and rolefulness are very similar. Both are very important to have a happy life, and yeah, the relationship between them is very deep, I think.

How to increase rolefulness in our lives?

Increasing rolefulness

Nick: Awesome. So with that in mind, how can we increase rolefulness in our daily lives, Daiki?

Daiki: We have many chances to increase rolefulness in our daily lives. For example, establishing good relationships with our family, the community. 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. 

And engaging in ordinary activities such as greetings, conversations, and expressing gratitude to familiar people are important in developing rolefulness.

I think increasing our rolefulness is not a difficult thing; we have many chances to increase rolefulness in our daily lives. As I said, daily activities are very important to increase rolefulness.

Nick: Yeah, this might surprise some people, and to some degree, it surprised me. It's like, oh, wow, it's that easy, all we have to do is greet people, engage in conversations, and express gratitude and obviously mean it. 

But I think when people greet us or when people say thank you to us; someone today sent me an email thanking me for something, and it was actually in relation to a role I have at, I think I told you, I'm at a public speaking group called Toastmasters, and I'm the secretary.

So I have to take minutes; so after every meeting, I have to send out a spreadsheet just mentioning all the details of the evening--who spoke, who did what. 

Most people don't thank me because everyone's too busy. But one person did thank me, they sent me an email saying thank you, Nick, for updating us.

And yeah, it made me feel appreciated and made me think okay, my role as secretary at Toastmasters is worth it, even though I don't like working with a spreadsheet and filling out all these things in a spreadsheet. 

I'd rather be doing something else, but being thanked made me think someone does appreciate what I do. And from living in Japan, I do know that aisatsu, so greetings. And I guess expressing gratitude is very important. Particularly in Japan, so much, so you have kimari monku, like you have set expressions. 

So yeah, would you like to talk about the importance of those three things: greetings, conversations, and expressing gratitude. Why are they important for rolefulness?

Daiki: So, as we talked in the previous episode, I'm now studying psychology. So we can't see our feelings or what we think. So, it is difficult to see other's minds or actually understand what they think about from outside, it is very difficult.

But it is important to show how we feel or what we think about. So using conversations or greetings or gratitudes, they are very important ways to show our feelings to others. Because of that reason, greetings or showing gratitude are very important.

Nick: And what is encouraging is it doesn't take a lot of energy, we're only talking about properly greeting people, engaging in conversations, which I think most people usually enjoy.

And then of course, expressing gratitude, it doesn't take much, it's just a couple of words to say 'I thank you' or send your email or text someone a message and thank them. 

But I think it makes a significant difference to people's lives. When you greet someone, you thank someone and often, the best moments in our lives are in conversations. We often remember our conversations with people that may have impacted or changed our lives. So it doesn't take a lot to develop rolefulness.  

Rolefulness journaling 

And perhaps another way that you and I are exploring, we touched on this last week with the worksheets, could be this idea of rolefulness journaling. So it seems that reflecting and journaling on our roles increases our sense of social rolefulness.

And in addition to a gratitude journal --so a lot of people have a gratitude journal, or a very common practice is for people to note down three things they're grateful for. 

So a lot of people do this every day, they might do it at the end of the day, or in the morning, they write down, I'm grateful for my freedom, or I'm grateful that someone helped me yesterday or I'm grateful that I have a car or someone baked me a cake and whatnot. 

So I think in addition to a gratitude journal, rolefulness journaling would be a very helpful daily practice. What do you think, Daiki?

Daiki: Yeah, I completely agree with your idea. Reflecting and journaling on our roles will increase our rolefulness as you expected. That's a very good way, I think. 

Similarities between Naikan and rolefulness

Naikan and rolefulness

Nick: So one of the problems with journaling is often there is no structure or guidance to it. And I recently learned about something called Naikan journaling, which does have a structure to it. So yeah, I was thinking about it. I wonder if Naikan journaling in the various contexts of our roles would be helpful.

Daiki: Yes, the concept of Naikan has some similarities with rolefulness. Naikan journaling is a good idea to increase rolefulness. So, in your book Ikigai-kan: Feel a Life Worth Living, you introduced the outline of Naikan --the explanation of the Naikon is very good.

I think you may introduce Naikan. Can you share a summary of Naikan with our audience, Nick?

Nick: Sure, okay. I feel like I'm being a bit self-promoting, but this is what I wrote in my book. And I guess I should say that Naikan really focuses on relationships, your relationships with others, but I think we could apply Naikan to our roles, often our roles, often our relationships, as we know, being a father. 

So here we go, Naikan is a structured self-reflection technique, 'nai' means inside and 'kan' means looking. Therefore, Naikan translates to looking inside, or introspection, or inside looking. The technique could be described as the Japanese art or Japanese way of self-reflection, of seeing oneself with the mind's eye. 

It's grounded in Pure Land Buddhist tradition. And it offers a clear and usable self-reflection method to practising gratitude, and can serve as both spiritual and a psychotherapeutic practice.

So in short, Naikan is used to increase our awareness of the often unnoticed compassion that others have towards us, as well as the innate self-centeredness of our human nature. 

So yeah, we're often very self-centred, if we don't reflect on what we're receiving from others. And so when people do Naikan, they ask themselves three questions in relation to usually a family member, or some other person during a particular time in their life.

And the three questions are: What did this person give me? What did I return to this person? And the third one is the interesting one. What troubles did I cause this person?

I think the third one is interesting, Daiki, because I think the West would be a bit shocked by this question thinking, 'Me? I don't cause trouble for anyone, like, I'm always kind. And I'm always thinking about...' Like, that's what we want to think. 

But I think in Japan, this type of question, what troubles did I cause this person wouldn't be a surprise, because, you know, my memory of living in Japan, I would often hear the phrase like, meiwaku kakenaide from parents to their children.

So Japanese are very aware of not causing trouble to others. So would you say that's true to some degree? That the third question doesn't surprise you so much when you're thinking about being introspective?

Daiki: Yeah, the third question is quite based on Japanese culture. From my experience, when I was a child, I had the feeling that I didn't want to cause trouble for someone. So, yeah it is very important for Japanese people, and it's very natural.

Nick: Yeah, very unnatural for us.

Daiki: Yeah.

Nick: So we can learn something. And the theory is, if you were doing, let's say, you're spending 20 minutes on this, you might spend five minutes on the first question, five minutes on the second question, but 10 minutes on the last question.

So you're really dedicating more time to know what troubles you cause other people. And I guess the idea is we're not always aware of the things we do. 

But if we do reflect on them, we might think, yeah, that's right. You know, I said to my wife, I would take out the garbage and I forgot or I was a little bit rude to someone or I forgot to do something, and then you realise, 'I have caused people trouble.'

Hopefully unintentionally, and then this process gives you a way to think about it, reflect on it, and perhaps improve on your behaviour in the future.  

The method of Naikan 

I'll just briefly mention, there are two types of Naikan: there is one week and daily. The former, one week is done continually for a week or more, maybe even longer at a Naikan Training Center, or at the home of a Naikon practitioner, where you as the client would spend the majority of your day reflecting on your relationships in silence. 

And the practitioner will usually ask you something like, start with the memories of your mother from the earliest memories of your mother from the ages between three to five, and reflect on those three questions. And then they would come back to you after 40 minutes or an hour of reflecting, and they would just say, what has Naikan revealed to you. 

And then you just talk, the practitioner doesn't really ask many questions, they don't guide you, they just give you this space for you to reflect on your past relationships.  

Journaling to increase rolefulness 

Journaling to increase rolefulness

So maybe this is something we could adapt to our roles. So that would be interesting to explore. What do you think, Daiki? Do you think we could take this type of journaling and adapt it to our roles and increase our level of rolefulness?

Daiki: So thank you for introducing Naikan. And so yes, I think journaling is very useful to increase rolefulness. So you introduced the three questions of Naikan, and I think that the second question, 'What did they return to this person?', has a deep relationship with rolefulness. 

In the Naikan method, considering relationships with important people is necessary. For example, my mother or father, that kind of important person, what we return to others concerns social roles, other people do something for us, and then we return to them in our daily lives.

We do have social roles in the relationships with our familiar people, such as family and friends. But it is difficult for us to focus on them every time. 

So we return many things to familiar people but we don't remember everything. So how to focus is very important, but it is very difficult. Journaling will help us to look back and focus our attention on our social roles, and so if we do journaling, we remember what we returned to our important people and it is a very good chance to focus on our roles.

Nick: Yeah, it's almost like a self-actualizing journaling method. If we want to become this authentic version of ourselves, we want to become the person we want to be in our various roles and relationships. I think Naikan is really helpful because you have to face the reality of your life.

And there may be relationships where you don't give back as much as you receive, and you do cause trouble, so that gives you the opportunity to recognize it. 

And then you can work towards changing that. With these familiar people that are important to you: family and friends. And we do take our family and friends for granted, because we see them every day.  

Reflecting on the rolefulness scale 

So I think journaling would be very helpful. And perhaps rolefulness journaling could also include reflecting on your 10 items of your rolefulness scale. So let's touch on that idea. But before we do, do you want to go over the rolefulness scale again, Daiki?

Daiki: Yeah, the statements of rolefulness scale could be a good guide, a good help for journaling. So we talked about statements included in the rolefulness scale, we talked about it in the previous podcast. But I'll talk about it again here. 

Social rolefulness includes five items: I'm useful in society; I can apply my strengths for society; My roles are necessary for other people; I have a role in the various groups I belong to; And the last one is, I carry out several social roles. So these five items are included in social rolefulness.

And internal rolefulness also includes five items: I realise my individuality by my role; I'm satisfied with my role; I gain confidence because of my role; My role brings out my individuality; the last one is, I have a role that is only mine. 

I think that these statements of social rolefulness are useful for beginners. As an example, with the statement, 'I'm useful in society', one could journal on how they think they are useful to society, or how they would like to be useful to society.

When you are used to journaling, the items of internal rolefulness would be a great help, a great guide to focus on your feelings and identity. 

For example, the statement of 'My role brings out my individuality', the statement helps you to pay attention to your individuality through your role. So I said that the second question of Naikan method, what I returned to my familiar people is important to think about in rolefulness.

And same as that, using the statement of rolefulness scale helps you to look back on your experience and pay attention to your role. 

But I think you don't need to use every item to do journaling. So as I introduced, the item of social rolefulness is easy to remember, your experience. After you do the journaling, you may use the statement of internal rolefulness. I think that it is a very good idea to use the rolefulness scale as a guide to journaling.

Nick: I do like this idea. And I think even if you go through the items, and you think, 'Well, my roles aren't necessary for other people.' You can still think, 'How would I like my roles to be necessary?' So it can connect you to a future self that you want to be.

So I think it'd be very helpful in that context as well that even if you don't feel that you have a strong sense of rolefulness, or that you're not useful, this journaling might give you the opportunity to reflect on how would I like to change that? And what's the future version of me that I'd like to be in these contexts of roles?

So yeah, I think it would be very helpful. So maybe that's something you and I will explore. Maybe in addition to the book, we might develop some sort of workbook that people can download, and there might be a lot of activities they can do and that will include journaling.

So I think, Daiki, we have come to this conclusion that journaling would be very helpful for rolefulness.

Daiki: Yes, I do think that journaling based on the rolefulness scale, of course, the worksheet, they are helpful to increase our rolefulness. Journaling is a very easy method, and we can look back on social roles every day.

We want to develop the rolefulness journaling method with Nick in the near future and introduce it through this project Both the worksheet and journaling are really helpful to increase our rolefulness.

Nick: Awesome. Well, let's summarise so that the goal of this episode was to talk about increasing rolefulness. And so our advice was to greet people and have conversations, and express gratitude. That's what you discovered through your research and paper. And now there's this other element of reflection through journaling. 

So yeah, this really opens the door, I think, to a lot of discussion and ideas, our roles are so important. All of us have multiple roles, and I think reflecting on them through journaling, and engaging in these very simple daily practices, you greet someone properly, you have conversations with your co-workers, your family, your friends, and where possible, you always try to thank someone, it's going to make them feel good. It's gonna make you feel good. So yeah, it increases our rolefulness. 

So, Daiki, I must thank you, you have increased my rolefulness by sharing this project with me. So thank you. And so next week, we will talk about rolefulness and ibasho which is this concept of 'your place to be.' So I look forward to that. So thank you again, Daiki, for joining me.

Daiki: Yeah, thank you very much, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

Nick: Awesome. All right. Thank you