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Using Japanese Wisdom to Navigate Life after High School

5 min read
Blog Summary Japanese wisdom and philosophies are explored as guiding principles for students transitioning from high school to further studies or careers.

Graduating from hi school and embarking on the journey to college is a truly exhilarating time in one's life. As you bid farewell to the familiar halls of high school, you open the door to a world of endless possibilities and new experiences. You might also be finding yourself standing at the threshold of a future filled with both exciting possibilities and daunting uncertainties. Also, this period is a teaser to adulthood, when you will experience more independence, more responsibilities, self-discovery, and personal growth.

Amidst the massive influx of technological advancements and rapid evolution of the world happening around you, how about a quick introduction to seven profound Japanese concepts for a happy life?

The following seven concepts are timeless, and they can immensely help you in shaping your professional life as well as your personal life. These concepts don't claim to be the secret mantras of career and financial success. But they are effective frameworks that you can base your thoughts and actions on to create a well-rounded, successful life. Here we go.


 The first and the most popular of all is Ikigai. There are numerous books and articles written on Ikigai, and there is evidence that this concept has helped people live long, happy, meaningful life. Ikigai essentially means "a reason for being." Ikigai helps you find your career driven by purpose. With Ikigai, you can assess if your desired career will be purposeful. This concept is an intersection of these four elements.

  • What you are good at
  • What you love
  • What the world needs
  • What you can be paid for

Ikigai insists that your career should encompass these four components so that you can live a life that is both meaningful and enjoyable. To uncover your Ikigai, reflect on your passions, talents, values, and the problems you want to solve in the world. Consider your hobbies, strengths, and the activities that bring you joy and fulfilment.

Instead of solely focusing on financial stability or societal expectations, prioritise pursuing a career that resonates with your Ikigai. This alignment will bring a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction as you will be engaged in work that aligns with your passions and contributes to the greater good.

Shikata ga ni

Shikata ga ni means "it can't be helped." It emphasises the acceptance of circumstances beyond our control and the ability to adapt and move forward despite challenges. As you navigate the post-high school phase, uncertainties and setbacks are bound to arise. Here, embracing the concept of Shikata Ga Nai allows you to acknowledge these challenges and accept that some things are beyond your control.

Instead of dwelling on what cannot be changed, focus on finding solutions, adapting to new situations, and embracing the opportunities that come your way. By adopting a Shikata Ga Nai mindset, you develop resilience and adaptability. Rather than being overwhelmed by unexpected situations, you learn to view them as opportunities for growth and personal development. This mindset enables you to bounce back from setbacks and face the uncertainties of the future with confidence.


Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that celebrates the beauty of imperfection. It is a reminder that nothing is perfect and that this is what makes life interesting. It teaches us to appreciate the transient nature of life and find beauty in simplicity and authenticity. Wabi-sabi can be applied to everything from art to relationships. It can help you to appreciate the beauty of the world around you, even when it is not perfect.

After high school, you may encounter a few failures and make mistakes. Instead of being disheartened or dwelling on these setbacks, embrace the philosophy of wabi-sabi. Understand that these experiences contribute to your growth and character. Learn from them, make necessary adjustments, and move forward with renewed determination. By finding beauty in every moment, you develop a resilient and grateful outlook, allowing you to navigate the uncertain world with grace and positivity.


Gaman means "endurance." It is the ability to bear hardship with patience and forbearance. Gaman is often seen as a virtue in Japanese culture. It is a reminder that we can overcome any obstacle if we have the strength and determination to do so. Gaman embodies perseverance and endurance in the face of hardships. It encourages individuals to stay strong and maintain self-control, even in challenging circumstances. As you embark on your journey after high school, Gaman reminds you to stay committed to your goals, remain focused, and endure temporary difficulties for long-term success. By developing a resilient mindset and maintaining determination, you can navigate the uncertainties of the world with courage and grace.


Every human being is unique. You are drastically different from your peers in all biological, social, and psychological aspects. Your paths and purpose in life are different from anyone else's. So, comparing yourself to someone is not just illogical but outrightly wrong. Oubaitori reinforces the same idea - "Don't compare yourself to others." Oubaitori is a reminder that we are all unique individuals and that we should not judge ourselves based on the standards of others. When you embrace Oubaitori, you become more confident and accepting of yourself. You will realise the truth that each one of us has been bestowed a set of strengths that could lead us to live a successful life. Therefore you'll live a life of contentment, building on your inherent strengths and marching forward towards your true purpose.


You would have come across Kaizen often as a concept in business management, but it can be applied across many areas of our lives as well. This Japanese philosophy means "continuous improvement." The central idea of Kaizen is that we can always improve ourselves and our lives, no matter how good we are already. After high school, when you set goals, embrace the philosophy of Kaizen. Break down your goals into smaller, achievable tasks and focus on consistent progress rather than immediate perfection. By adopting this mindset, you can continually improve your skills, knowledge, and abilities and reap amazing results.

Kaizen promotes the adoption of a growth mindset in us, which is essential for long-term success. Accept challenges, seek feedback, and view setbacks as opportunities for growth. By believing in your ability to learn and improve, you can navigate the uncertainties of the post-high school world with confidence and resilience.

Shu Ha Ri

And the last of all is Shu Ha Ri. It roughly translates to "Learn, Detach, Transcend'. Shu Ha Ri outlines the stages of mastery in any discipline. It insists on the importance of learning, breaking free from conventions, and eventually becoming a master in your chosen field. As you enter a phase of continuous learning and skill development, you can adapt to Shu Ha Ri by being open to new knowledge, techniques, and perspectives. Seek guidance from mentors and experts, and immerse yourself in opportunities for learning and growth. As you progress through the stages of Shu-Ha-Ri, you transition from dependence on others to independence and, eventually, mastery. Gradually, you develop your unique style, innovate, and contribute to your chosen field. On this journey, you will understand that mastery requires dedication, perseverance, and a lifelong commitment to learning and growth. This understanding will teach you perseverance and resilience and develop the disposition to attain mastery than settling for small wins.

In the face of an uncertain world filled with exponential advancements and innovations, it's natural for graduating for you to feel overwhelmed and fearful of making the wrong choices. And the fear is not baseless. Some major decisions in life are reversible, and some are not. But be assured that the career choices that you make at this stage might be hard to reverse later, but it is always possible. So, confidently make the decision your heart wants you to make.

Incorporating these Japanese concepts into your mindset to find guidance, inspiration, and motivation to navigate this phase of life with confidence and purpose. By discovering your Ikigai, accepting the unchangeable through Shikata Ga Nai, embracing imperfections with Wabi-sabi, persevering through Gaman, finding the uniqueness in yourself with Oubaitori, striving for continuous improvement through Kaizen, and following the path to mastery with Shu-Ha-Ri, students can create a positive mindset that propels them towards success.

Remember, the journey after high school is not about finding all the answers or avoiding failures. It's about embracing uncertainties, learning from experiences, and staying true to your aspirations. So, step into the unknown with courage, and let these Japanese concepts serve as your guiding light.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find my Ikigai?
Finding your Ikigai involves introspection and self-reflection. Start by exploring your passions, interests, skills, and values. Consider what brings you joy and fulfilment, as well as how you can contribute to the world. Reflect on the activities or pursuits that make you lose track of time and give you a sense of purpose. By aligning these elements, you can begin to uncover your Ikigai.
What should I do if I face failure after high school?
Failure is a natural part of life and should be viewed as a learning opportunity. Embrace failure as a chance to grow and develop resilience. Take the time to reflect on what went wrong, learn from the experience, and make necessary adjustments. Remember that setbacks do not define you; it is how you respond and learn from them that matters. Keep pushing forward, stay determined, and use failures as stepping stones toward success.
How can I develop resilience and adaptability?
Resilience and adaptability can be developed through practice and mindset shifts. Cultivate a positive outlook and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. Develop problem-solving skills, seek support from others, and maintain a flexible mindset. Remember that change is inevitable, and by adapting to new situations, you can navigate the uncertain world with resilience and confidence.
What if I'm unsure about taking risks?
Taking risks can be intimidating, but it is often necessary for personal growth and success. Start by evaluating the potential rewards and consequences of the risk you are considering. Assess the level of uncertainty and gather information to make an informed decision. Start with small, calculated risks and gradually expand your comfort zone. Remember that growth often happens outside your comfort zone, and taking risks can lead to new opportunities and experiences.
How can I embrace the learning process?
Embracing the learning process requires a growth mindset and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Be open to new experiences, seek out mentors or role models, and actively seek knowledge and feedback. Embrace challenges and view them as opportunities for learning and growth. Remember that mastery is a journey, and every step along the way contributes to your personal and professional development.

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