For the harassed, the weary, the dispirited and the burnt-out, here’s an encouraging headline, courtesy of Spa! (June 29): “Ganbaranai de ikiru” (“Living without trying.”) Effort is so much wasted effort. Relax! It’ll all come right in the end, and if it doesn’t, simply defeat adversity by learning to live with it. Really, life is simpler than conventional wisdom would have us believe.
Go on striving if you insist, but look around you, Spa! says. Depression, family breakdown, forced early retirement are all rising. COVID-19 is an accelerator but not a cause. This was all underway pre-pandemic.
Things were, if not better, at least stabler a generation ago, industrial psychologist and consultant Ayano Funaki tells the magazine. The company you joined after college harbored you for life, promoted you, raised your salary. It demanded much in return – long hours, unstinting commitment – but the goals were clear and attainable. None of this, for most people, still applies. The ground is perpetually shifting under our feet. Skills acquired yesterday, respected today, may be outmoded tomorrow, and if so what’ll you do?
It defies all conventional wisdom. Few Japanese verbs recur more frequently than ganbaru (try hard). Traditionally, it’s the virtue of virtues. Beyond certain limits, however, it becomes a vice. Too much of a good thing does more harm than good. The brain itself rebels against excessive effort, says learning consultant Masami Utode.
The most active region of the brain in ordinary workaday operations, he explains, is that governing short-term memory. It stores the information your immediate task requires, then in effect deletes it. It works in brief spurts – an hour or so at a time – and then demands refreshment. Deny it that and it pays you back with fatigue and forgetfulness. Defy it if you want to show the boss how committed you are – but not if you want to be productive.
Be realistic, says Utode. Take stock, he advises. What are you striving for? What’s your personal goal? To be a department head? Very good. Why? (It may help to put this in writing.) Is it higher income you’re after? If so, maybe a side job would serve your purpose better. It’ll raise your earnings and cost you less in terms of time and stress. Or is it the title itself that is important to you? In that case, Utode continues, consider transferring to a smaller, less demanding company, where promotion comes easier. Unless, of course, you find the relentless pace of things as they are stimulating and fulfilling – but in that case you wouldn’t be consulting a consultant.
Hiroyuki Nishimura (or simply “Hiroyuki,” as he styles himself), runs the online bulletin board 4chan. He’s 44. What’s the most important thing in life, in his opinion? “Sleep,” he says. He has a point. Without enough of it, the body breaks down. The mind does too, as any insomniac who has ever tried to think straight knows. Too much work, too much stress, are corrosive to sleep. Hiroyuki will have none of it. He hasn’t exceeded his natural (and by his own account very moderate) capacity for sustained effort since studying for college entrance exams, he tells Spa!. He’s done well for himself all the same. Online entrepreneurship aside, he’s the author of a bestselling books titled, fittingly enough, “One Percent Effort.” “I figure I’m happier than most people my age,” he says.
Now we know how he does it.© Japan Today