"10 Japanese Concepts for Self-Improvement and a Balanced Life: How to Study with a Highlighter and Avoid Common Pitfalls"


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 30, 2023

4 min read


"10 Japanese Concepts for Self-Improvement and a Balanced Life: How to Study with a Highlighter and Avoid Common Pitfalls"


Living in Japan for over 20 years has exposed me to countless stories of hospitality and humility. Through my experiences, I have discovered ten Japanese concepts that promote self-improvement and a balanced life. These concepts, such as omoiyari, ikigai, and wabi-sabi, offer valuable insights into personal growth and fulfillment. In this article, I will explore these concepts and connect them to the act of studying with a highlighter, discussing three common pitfalls to avoid. By combining these two topics, we can gain a deeper understanding of how to cultivate a balanced life while effectively studying.

1. Omoiyari: Compassion and Empathy:

Omoiyari, the practice of considering others' feelings and empathizing with them, is a concept that can be applied to studying. Just as practicing omoiyari helps build compassion towards others, it can also enhance our ability to understand and connect with the material we study. By approaching our studies with empathy, we can develop a deeper appreciation for the subject matter and gain a more comprehensive understanding.

2. Wabi-Sabi: Embracing Imperfections:

Wabi-sabi encourages us to embrace imperfections and accept the natural cycle of life. Similarly, when studying with a highlighter, it is essential to recognize and accept our own imperfections as learners. One common pitfall is using the highlighter without reading the text first. This approach fails to acknowledge the importance of understanding the material before highlighting key points. Instead, we should read the text thoroughly to identify the significant concepts that require further examination or resonate with us personally.

3. Shu-Ha-Ri: Building Habits and Mastery:

The Shu-Ha-Ri framework, commonly used in martial arts, can also be applied to studying. Shu represents the stage of learning where we follow the teachings of a master or imitate the work of great minds. Ha involves experimentation and integration of what we have learned into our practice. Ri signifies innovation and adaptation, applying our knowledge to different situations. By incorporating this framework into our studying routine, we can establish effective habits and strive for continuous improvement.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Read the text thoroughly before highlighting to identify essential points that require attention.
  • 2. Use highlighting as a complement to note-taking, actively processing and understanding the information.
  • 3. Utilize different highlighter colors to differentiate the purpose of each highlight, enhancing clarity and organization.

4. Kaizen: Continuous Improvement:

Kaizen, the concept of continuous improvement through small, ongoing changes, can be applied to studying with a highlighter. Instead of relying solely on highlighting, we should continuously refine our study techniques and approaches. By experimenting with different methods and reflecting on what works best for us, we can make incremental improvements in our learning process.

5. Mono no Aware: Letting Go of Attachments:

Mono no aware refers to having empathy towards things and accepting their transient nature. Similarly, when studying, we should willingly let go of our attachments to specific ideas or information. Highlighting can serve as a tool to remind us of key concepts, but it should not hinder our ability to explore new perspectives or question existing knowledge. Embracing the concept of mono no aware allows us to approach studying with an open mind, fostering personal growth and intellectual curiosity.

6. Omotenashi: Offering the Best Service:

Omotenashi, the concept of offering the best service without expecting a reward, is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. In the context of studying, we can adopt this mindset by approaching our education as a service to ourselves. By prioritizing our personal growth and well-being, we can create an environment conducive to effective studying. Embracing omotenashi reminds us to invest in our learning journey wholeheartedly, without being solely driven by external rewards or pressures.

7. Ho-Ren-So: Effective Communication:

Ho-Ren-So, the basis of communication and collaboration in Japanese organizations, can also enhance our studying process. By reporting, informing, and consulting with others, we can gain different perspectives and insights. Engaging in discussions, joining study groups, or seeking guidance from mentors can enrich our learning experience and deepen our understanding of the material.


By combining Japanese concepts for self-improvement and a balanced life with the act of studying with a highlighter, we can enhance our learning journey and cultivate a more fulfilling academic experience. By practicing omoiyari, embracing wabi-sabi, and adopting the Shu-Ha-Ri framework, we can develop effective habits and continuously improve our study techniques. Additionally, incorporating kaizen, mono no aware, omotenashi, and Ho-Ren-So can further enrich our learning process and promote personal growth. By avoiding common pitfalls such as not reading the text first, replacing highlighting with note-taking, and using only one highlighter, we can optimize our studying efforts and create a more holistic approach to education. So, let us embark on this journey of self-improvement and balanced learning, utilizing the wisdom of Japanese concepts and the power of the highlighter.

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