Hansei: The Japanese Practice of Self-Reflection

08.31.2020 Life
Christine Dionese
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Hansei is the Japanese practice of honest and humble self-reflection through identifying weaknesses and mistakes.

All too often, we overlook our weaknesses and attempt to cover them with our strengths as if they will eventually conquer our flaws. Hansei suggests that individuals must accept the fact that they have flaws and weaknesses, otherwise one’s ability to continuously improve while leaving a positive impact on the culture will be at a disadvantage. 

Jeffrey Liker, author of The Toyota Way says Hansei is more than self-awareness, it is being so self-aware that you continually consider how your individual “weaknesses” can be reframed into improvements to benefit the whole of society so that everyone’s learning through recalibration efforts that go on to benefit everyone else. 

Hansei is accepting and exploring uncomfortable truths. It’s admitting a mistake void of shame and full of positive intent to improve. It’s deeply reflective and deeply human. Hansei is taught and practiced from childhood and reinforced through all activities in life — it’s not something mandated by the government or your boss or your teacher. 

Especially embraced in business culture, “Hansei is much deeper than reflection. It is being honest about your own weaknesses,” says Mike Masaki, former president of Toyota Technical Center. “If you are talking about only your strengths, you are bragging. If you are recognizing your weaknesses with sincerity, it is a high level of strength. In Japan, the reaction is ‘I should have designed this better, I made a mistake!’ But the US designer’s expectation is ‘I did a good job so I should be rewarded!’ This is a big cultural difference.”  

Toyota was long criticized and misunderstood for not celebrating success until other businesses and organizations began catching on that success was celebrated naturally through identifying and improving from weakness. 

This way of thinking requires reframing and non-attachment to the way we currently assign value to the commonly held cultural definitions of weakness. 

If we attach too readily to celebrating strengths without acknowledging our flaws or areas that warrant improvement, the process itself could be seen as the weakness. Coming from either a business or personal perspective, if we operate void of information from the periphery, we may miss the most imperative variables to consider for deep self-reflection. 

Hansei teaches that time is a healer and that we can replace and reframe calculative mindsets. The Gemba Academy suggests asking these questions: How did I spend my time today? How did the way I spent my time help me improve my lot? How can I spend more time with the people and things that I love? 

Reflecting on how we spend time and energy in our effort to improve our personal and career lives will harness self-control and therefore expand our cultural benefit. 

How are you practicing Hansei? What is your process for deeper self-reflection and how do you reframe your perceived weaknesses to improve yourself and those around you?

Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist, as well as a wellness, lifestyle, and food writer. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her daughter and husband. Her podcast, Well Examined explores the depths of personalized wellness and sovereignty for modern living. 

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