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Leisure and ikigai: Research memos

This blog post is to share some of memos I wrote through my doctoral research on leisure and ikigai, using grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Doing this, I hope, would make my analysis process more transparent, and potentially inspire other researchers who are interested in grounded theory.

I would appreciate any feedback, too!


==== Copies of memos from here ====

Title: Fear of "nothing" among students Entry: June 20th, 2015 Thematic memo 6

I am writing this because I wanted to think about something I has sensed throughout the past 3 interviews--fear of "nothing." I think I would think of socio-economic, cultural, and political contexts of ikigai among Tokai students. I think this observation of fear of "nothing" is not only based on the interviews, but also based on my own college experiences and interactions with other Tokai students. In Japan, most students go to high shool. And many of them come to university. I think we are still in the zennyuu (or "all in") time when the number of available seats in all universities and colleges in Japan outnumber the number of students in a given academic year. So, if you really don't care about what you want to study or which university you want to go to, you can be a university student (of course, there are financial issues or so). Under such circumstances, being a university student and a graduate is not special; it doesn't add anything (any value) to you. On the contrary, the job market in Japan has been tough over the last few decades (there were some ups and downs). The job hunting system in Japan was (in)famous gobally. It started from the third year. If you include internship, it started even in the second or first year. It was bizzre. So, the government and major corporations made it a rule that major companies would not stary hiring until the fourth year. But still, the market is tough and students need to differentiate themselves from other candidatesto get a job they want. Here comes experience. Even in my college days, there were many students who wanted to "have experiences." Something that sounds good. Like studying abroad, internship, participating in some projects or so, volunteering, entreprenuership, varsity team... you name it. It was, and I believe it still is, almost like a "stamp rally" to collect all these experiences so that at the end of this rally called "college life," one can win by getting a desired job. In terms of experiences, I think Tokai is unique (maybe not that much). I have many friends who attended different "more prestigeous" universities, like Keio, Waseda, U of Tokyo, U of Kyoto, ICU, Meiji, etc. They are running in the top group of this rally. These universities appear to provide much information about experiences and support their students so that they can win chances to experience. Tokai is not too bad. You can experience things if you want. But, only if you want and seek. You have to be involved and connected to people who know opportunities. Masaomi and Sayaka both said that they felt they made a mistake in their earlier years. I think what they meant was partially that they did not seek out. I was one of those, too. Tokai is a good university with nice profs, nice staffs, nice friends, and nice environments. You can live a college life without doing anything. But, if you do so, you won't have any experience at the end. At least nothing you can tell to interviewers from companies. This is why I put a double quotation mark to "nothing" in the title. Of couse, students experience something; every single one of them. But, most of them turn into "nothing" once they face the job hunting or even when they think about it. Students would have a feel of "what have I done (or haven't done)?" Tokai is an interesting mixture of students who have experiences and who don't. So, you can come across with those who have and realize that you need to do something. Just like Masaomi did. Also, in Japan, till universities, the education system is highly structured. You don't really have many room to reach out and seek out. Every student receives almost same number of chances; the point is whether you can win it or not. But, at a university at least at Tokai, you have to be proactive. So, there is fear of "nothing," of not experiencing anything worthy. It appears that fear is prevalent among the interviewees so far and drives them to live a college life with experiences. I wonder, though, if this is limited to those who have been exposed to students who have "worthy" experiences such as study abroad or so. What about those who haven't really exposed to those stories? Or those who heard about them but could not relate to it (e.g., "well, that's good for him, but I can't study abroad.")? These could be a potentially theoretical sampling points.

Title: Ikigai and hito (or people) Entry: June 22nd, 2015 Thematic Memo 13

I am writing this memo after I read through Yoku's transcript. A keyword that underlies his account of ikigai is hito or people. The other 2 interviewees, Masaomi and Sayaka, also talked about the relationship bewteen their ikigai and people. It is clearly a key concept. I wanted to think of how Yoku talked about it. I felt that Yoku's account on the relationship between ikigai and people is a bit different from those of Masaomi and Sayaka. The latter interviewees emphasized their intimate relationships with significant others. On the contrary, Yoku underscored the importace of showing his ikigai (or work--whether works from his hobbies or literally "job" work) to other people, sharing the moment with others (e.g., coworkers), and getting feedback from others. There a couple of reasons for this. First, Yoku emphasized that he wanted to "go up" or ueni-ikitai. Here, "up" or ue can mean many things--better skill and ability, better performance, better position, job, and status... Getting feedback from others on his work is a way to improve his skill and ability so that he can move up. Second, Yoku said he felt a sense of "superiority" or satisfaction from showing his work to others and getting positive (or at least constructive) feedback. He was wondering if the term he used yuuetsu-kan, or a sense of superiority, is right or not though. I suspect this is not much about feeling superior to others, but feeling satisfied with what he has achieved (with his colleagues). It's more about "better him" than who he was yesterday. A sense of accomplishment and moving forward. He also used manzoku-kan (satisfaction) and yatta-kan (a sense of accomplishment). Anyways, he said he can experience kandou, or feel moved, by showing his work and getting feedback. Kandou is interesting; it is written in Chinese characters as "moved emotions." I see a link between kando and emotional overdrive in the other memoi. Positive emotions he experienced in this process keeps a given work or activity interesting and exciting to him and generates "energy" or "engine" for the next step. This resonates with Masaomi's account on motivation. Also, I want to bring in the notion of "push" and "pull" again. This process may be somehow "pull" for Yoku because he knows what he can accomplish and how he can feel at the end. But, the consequence from the process--positive emotions--is a "push" for the next step in his life. Ikigai, as in pushes and pulls, continues; it keeps students' lives move forward. It may begin with a push or pull. To be pushed, you have to have an opportunity. You have to face with a difficult situation and try to overcome it. To be pulled, you need to remain "interested" and "engaged" in life. Masaomi said, "if I lost my interest, I think it would be over." I think he is right. Staying interested is an important way to keep one's life going. Push and pull, they may be a core concept in this study...

Title: Two ways of using "pull" T35 Entry: June 30th, 2015 Thematic Memo 35

I am writing this memo on the next day of Jotaro's interview. Some theoretically important concepts from his interview were already written down in the previous memos. But, in this memo, I want to discuss another potentially important concept--the 2 ways of using a pull. A pull is the concept I developed to describe one of the two major ways students get motivated to engage with their lives: pull and push. Compared with push with which students are stimulated by external factors, pull motivate students by its own innate appeal--intrinsic motivation. Often something that can pull students is enjoyable or positively toned. Jotaro pulled by plans to hang out with his friends, for example. As just described, one way to use pull is to set a pull in the near future so that students get and remain motivated until they experience it. This means that they are motivated to do things other than the pull per se. For instance, when Jotaro forsees a plan to hang out with his friends over the weekend, he is motivated for studies in that week too. He and many other students know that striving amplifies their enjoyment! So, they do things they have to do and strive for when they have a pull in the future. This is the proactive way to use a pull to realize an engaged life. Another way to use a pull is more reactive. Sometimes, students get "worn out" by too much engaging especially striving. They are tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. Things are just too much. When they feel like they can't strive anymore, they often participate in something fun to take time off. Because it is sometning fun, this can be considered as another pull. Or, it is enjoying. After enjoying, students feel refreshed and can go back to what they have to do or strive. Maybe the latter is a description of disengagement. Is there any difference between enjoying and disengaging? I don't think they are the same things. Students sometimes enjoy the moment purely. It is not because they were worn out. But, disengaging appears to have enjoying elements all the time. (Unless there is such a thing like "too much of enjoying"!). So,perhaps, enjoying encompasses disengaging? Disengaging is a special form of enjoying?

Title: Chyuuto-hanpa -- doing half-way job T47 Entry: July 4th, 2015 Thematic Memo 47

I am writing this memo after I read through Violet's transcript. One phrase stood out to me was chyuuto-hanpa, or doing half-way job. This could be another important factor to discern the relationship between engaged and unengaged lives. Violet used this term when asked to identify a part of her life where she didn't have much ikigai--the first year of her college life. She thought this was because she was doing many things but doing half-way jobs. She was so into tennis in high school, but she quit it when she came to Tokai. The bukatsu was such a big part of her life back in high school. She felt void in her life. So, she tried out so many things in her first year in college--studies, saakuru (student group). She didn't like her major back then, so thought of changing into international studies or even aviation. She did "mosaku" or exploration back then. However, as she proceeded with the 2nd and 3rd years, she could take more specialized courses that were really about astronomics, not some mandatory math course. This helped her to stay in her major and focus on it. So, for her, this phase of exploration was chyuuto-hanpa or half way jobs. I am wondering whether I should situate this state as part of an unengaged life or transition from an unengaged life to engaged life. I gravitating toward the latter. This state is clearly different from darui or uninterested, dull, bored. She was actively exploring things. The issue was not fully committing enough to any of many things she tried. That's what it is half-way job. Being in the state of darui is almost "no-way" job. There is an important difference here. I certainly felt that Violet was certainly feeling more ikigai at the time of her interview. Arguably this could be because she focused on a manageable number of things. Thus, theoretically, students may need to focus on a certain number of immediate experiences, not too many. I would say 2 or 3 usually, 4 at most. Otherwise, you will be worn out too quickly or do half-way job.

Title: Experiencing as the core of an engaged life with ikigai S1 Entry: July 6th, 2015 Summary Memo 1

This is the first summary memo I write in this study. So far, I have done 11 photo-elicitation interviews. The first 8 have been analyzed (initial-coded and/or focused-coded). I have conducted a couple queries to see how differently or similarly the two ikigai scales have worked so far in terms ofsubcategories of experiencing. I have written about 50 thematic memos so far. I thought this would be a good time to summarize what I have found so far and try to integrate them. Prior to writing this summary memo, I ran the Word Frequency query to see what words I frequently used to think of emerging categories so far (all thematic memos were submited). As expected some of the frequently used words were (excluding stop word-like terms): experience, engagement, enjoying, positive, friends, need (motivation), activities. Not surprisingly, engagement--one of the two most developed nodes--was most frequently used so far. Thus, in this first summary memo, I would like to summarize what I have found so far in light of engagement. See the Page 8 in the powerpoint file for diagramming to understand this memo better. As shown in the diagram, students' lives can be considered as a continuum of the level of engagement: unengaged, (to half-way engaged), to engaged, and to over-engaged. The state of being engaged is a life with (full or much of) ikigai. This state is characterized three components: (a) conditions, (b) experiences, and (c) consequences. (This framework is derived from Corbin's technique of the matrix.) First, conditions are antecedents of experiences (here experiences are ones "deep" enough to make students' lives engaged). There are several conditional factors for deep experiences. Two factors that emerged first were "pulled forward" and "pushed forward." When "pulled forward," students are intrinsically motivated and attracted by the appeal of possible experienecs per se. This often precedes a type of experiences--enjoying. Many of enjoyable experiences are leisure-like. When "pushed forward," students get stimulated by external factors, such as people (e.g., friends, teachers), media (e.g., music, comics), and environments (both social and physical). Often, pushed forward precedes another type of experiencing--striving, that is making efforts toward a goal, doing one's best. However, it is possible that students are both pulled and pushed forward to some extent simultaneously. Another condition for deep experiences is opportunities. They include getting into a study abroad program, being a president of a student group, and being a leader of a senior-year seminar. These opportunies, especially challenging ones, go with pushed forward, leading to striving experiences. Sometimes, students have opportunities, or "moments," for pulled forward (e.g., happen to listen to a band that one came to love; happen to join a sport team that one came to love), resulting in enjoying experiences. Whereas the opportunities are largely situational (thus out of control of students), there are several personal qualities of students who tend to engage with their lives. One of such qualities is the ability to enjoy any sitautions. Students with this quality find enjoyable elements in even seemingly unenjoyable situations. Another is susceptibility or easiness to be influenced by stimuli. This is a tendency to "move toward" experiences when one is pull or pushed. Another is the hunger for growth and changes. Students with this quality costantly seek opportunities where they can grow, learn and progress. There are a couple others identified by the earlier memo. Finally, being automous is a very important condition for deep experiences. Students need to feel autonomous (or choosing and doing by themselves) than being forced to do in order to deeply engage with experiences. I am not sure whether this condition has an equal status as the other conditions, because it seems that this one is linked to them. Maybe, something a higher-order? Next, experiences come after the conditions. These are actions and interactions of students in an engaged life (again from Corbin's matrix). The concept of experience or keiken emerged from the very early interviews. The participants have mentioned various experiences (or people with whom they had experienced,places where they had experiences, or things with which they had experiences) in relation to their ikigai. Many of their photos included these things. Their experiences included study, travel, play sports, do hobbies, hold an event, eat and drink, see something unique, listen, read, and so on. There is just a variety of experiences that the participants thought related to their ikigai. Among this diversity, I have identified several attributes and corresponding dimensions of experiencing. The first dimension emerged was, as mentioned above, enjoying (or tanoshimu) vs. striving (or ganbaru). Most of the participants' experiences can be categorized either of these binaries. Often, when asked to group their photos, the participants created (without knowing) this type of grouping. This dimenstion could be seen as "valence." Striving or ganbaru is a type of experiences in which students make much effort and do their best. It requires persistence, patience, deligence. It is not easy; it needs to be challenging and difficult. These experiences include: preparing for a study abroad, leading a seminar, leading a student group, and being part of a varsity team. On the contrary, enjoying or tanoshimu is a type of experiences in which students are attracter toward the appeal of experiences per se (thus pulled forward). It may not require much effort. It could be easy. (But, this is different from something that students do very casually, or shallow experiences. They are still deep enough.) Students could enjoy the process of striving as well. Typical enjoying experiences include: going to a live concert, having good time with friends, having fun moments in a study abroad, traveling, playing sports or music, and eating. Another important attribute of experiences is the continuum of new and old experiences. I am not being able to pinpoint what this dimension is about. But, it is certainly related to ikigai's contributions to a sense of self among students. Experiencing something new is related to another emerged concept called shigeki or stimuli. Without doing anything, students' lives tend to become boring, routine, and dull; they want to have a life with stimuli by experiencing new things. (Violet, Jotaro, Sayaka, etc) These experienecs can vary from extraordinary things (e.g., going to a different country, hosting a campus-wise event) to odrinary ones (e.g., doing something strange, doing some new fun things with friends). These experiences keep providing shigeki or stimuli to students' lives that otherwise tend to be routinized. (What do I mean by "new" experience? Some participants routinely seek new experience, as part of who they are. Is it "new" to them though?) Experiencing the same or old is related to another concept that has emerged (oridginally) independently of engagement or experience--experience consisting of self. Students' sense of who they are really depend on what they have experienced so far. This could potentially include both anew and same experiences for students. But, it appears that experiences that students have engaged in for an extended perid of time (e.g., music and sports they have played since their childhood) have more profound implications to the foundation of their "who they are." While new experiences help students to explore new aspects of self, these "same ole ole" experiences help them to establish themselves, and often "retrieve" who they are when they have to do something that is not necessarily consistent with themselves (e.g., those who enjoy things have to strive for a while). The third and fourth attributes of experiences both fall into interpersonal realms of engagement--(a) experiencing alone and together, and (b) giving and receiving. Some of students' experiences are done alone, such as their hobbies, studies, and travel. Although these experiences may not, compared to group experiences, give many consequences or strong influences onto students, they are often self-comleting (students can do by themselves without being affected by others' work), convenient (they can do when they have time), and self-rewarding (all is their own work). On the contrary, other experiences are done with others, especially other students. (These students with whom students engage in immediate experiences together can be considered as "comrades.") Often, sharing experiences with others intensifies the influences of those experiences on students themselves (e.g., more memorable, more to learn). Sometimes, the interpersonal aspect itself consists of the core of enjoying and/or striving experience (i.e., being with others is enjoyable, or working with others is challenging). Experiencing together is one way to create and maintain one's ibashyo or the place where one belongs. Another interpersonal dimension is giving vs. receiving. (I may move this to consequences of experiences, though.) Students give to others in some experiences, including throwing a surprise party to significant others, mentoring their juniors (or kouhai), and caring for and spending time with family. So far, it feels that most students are receiving from their experiences--stimuli (shigeki), information, precious memories, skills, and so on (now, I really think that this belongs to the consequences). These various expriences bring consequences to students. So far, I have identified two axes--(a) social (personal vs. interpersonal) and (b) temporal (memories vs. future possibilities). The personal consequences are most developed so far; they include: moved emotions (e.g., happy, surprised, elated), cognitive appraisals (e.g., a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, feelings of healed), stress coping, gained confidence, learning and growing, and worldviews. Interpersonal consequences of experiences have been drawn toward the notion of ibashyo, or the place where students belong. Sometimes, it is direct consequences like students who shared the same experiences bond together and creat a relationship within which they can show all aspects of who they are--both good and bad. Sometimes, the consequences are indirect in that students can feel they are living up to others' (e.g., family, friends) expectations or trust. Thus, they feel they "can be" part of a given ibashyo without feeling guilty. The temporal axis may be deemed as subgroups within the personal (but, some memories are shared with others... I want to think of these 2 axes as orthogonal for now). Many experiences are deep enough to leave many memories in students' minds. Often enjoying experiences leave positive and pleasant experiences. Students recall both positive and negative aspects of striving experiences; but overall, they remember these experiences are positive in that the experiences made them grow. Interestingly, the question regarding the contrast between ikigai and shiawase (or Japanese happiness) revealed that students deem their shiawase experiences more solely positively. Finally, I would like to add that many participants so far descrived the consequences of their experiences as conditions for their new (or future at the moment of their interviews) experiences. Thus, there should be actually feedback loop from the consequences to the conditions in Figure. Therefore, once students get into this loop of experiences, they can shift toward an engaged life. This memo has become long..., so I will leave the other parts, such as unengaged, half-way engaged, and over-engaged, and links among them to another summary memo.