Daruma dolls in Japan: a visual reminder of intentions, goals and perseverance

Daruma dolls in Japan are used as symbols of goals and intentions

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve become a bit obsessed with collecting Daruma dolls.

Before I left Japan in June, I bought nearly 100 Darumas of varying sizes and colors – some to keep for myself and many to give to coaching clients, colleagues, family and friends.

I’ve even found Darumas in the form of stamps, erasers and tapestries. I am still in search for some larger Darumas – and will be on the hunt when I am back in Tokyo for a week in October.

The Japanese characters for the word "Intention" - coming from the symbol for "heart" (top) and "direction" (bottom)
The Japanese characters for the word “Intention” – coming from the symbol for “heart” (top) and “direction” (bottom)

Daruma dolls – a symbol of intention & perseverance

As I wrote in January in a post about setting intentions and goals for 2016:

The concept of the Daruma doll is that the owner colors in one of the doll’s eyes when setting a goal. When the goal is achieved, the person colors in the other eye. The doll is supposed to be a visual reminder of the goal and help motivate the person. Daruma dolls can be found (big or small) in shops throughout Japan.

Something I didn’t share then is that Daruma dolls are usually weighted on the bottom. When the Daurma gets knocked down, it always lands on its “feet”. So, as many times as you get knocked off your path towards your goal, persevere and keep trying!

Daruma dolls have become symbolic to me of the core skills I teach and coach to – setting a goal, bringing intention to how you will achieve the goal, and reminding yourself to constantly improve and strive towards your goal.

Darumas are a visual reminder of the concept of intention – in Japanese, coming from the words “heart” and “direction”. Darumas remind us to keep on towards our own personal true north.

My Daruma collection

I plan on creating a Daruma display in my home office once we move back into our house in California later this summer.

They will serve as a reminder of not only my time in Japan, but visual reminder of staying on course with my own intentions and goals.

Daruma gift from India

The Daruma-inspired sun figure called "Magiq Eyes" that was sent to me as a gift from India.
The Daruma-inspired sun figure called “Magiq Eyes” that was sent to me as a gift from India.

One of the highlights for me this week was to receive a gift in the mail from India from one of my Twitter and blog followers, Sukumar Rajagopal.

A few weeks ago, he wrote to me that he was inspired by my blog and particularly how the Japanese Daruma dolls are as visual reminders setting intentions. His company decided to create their own Indian version of the Daruma to use in their behavior change program.

What a special gift! I look forward to adding my Indian Daruma-inspired sun figure to my collection when we are able to move back into our house.

I’ll be filling in the eye of this Magiq Eye Daruma to represent my intention to keep writing this blog even now that my time as a resident of Japan has passed.

Darumas for you at the Lean Coaching Summit

Daruma dolls in a store front in Tokyo
Daruma dolls in a store front in Tokyo

Part of my Daruma bounty was bought with the intention to share with others. I have already given away several to my local clients and some friends – and will be bringing them to Minnesota with me later this week.

If you are coming to the Lean Coaching Summit next week, you have a chance of going home with a small Daruma of your own!

I’ll be giving away a few Darumas at my session about Creating Intention and Focus for Coaching by Using a Structured A3 Thinking Process”.

You’ll learn about a process that I’ve found valuable in coaching and developing a plan for personal improvement – which I gave an overview of last year in my post titled  “The Power of Practicing Personal Problem Solving” – and have a chance to walk away with your own visual symbol of your own intentions and goals.

Time for reflections on intentions

Speaking of intentions and goals, it is time for my midyear reflection. I wrote in January that:

I am going to go buy a Daruma doll of my own and color an eye in. I’ll check back at the end of June to see if I followed through on my intentions for the next six months in Japan.

Well, I more than bought *a* Daruma doll of my own, so that goal was more than achieved! Like I did a year ago after my first 6 months in Japan and at the end of the year, is time to reflect on the intentions that I set out for my final six months of living in Japan.

Does my 2016 Daruma’s second eye deserve to be filled in?

It is also time set some new intentions as life continues forward back home in California. As I mentioned earlier, one intention is to keep writing this blog. This includes not only to catch up on sharing the many learning experiences I had in Japan in my final months as a Tokyo resident, but ongoing learnings and reflections about leadership, coaching, and Lean – regardless of location.

My time living in Japan might be over, but the spirit of Japan has been infused in my life. And my learnings continue!

What do you think?

How has the concept of intention helped guide your own improvement process? Do you use a visual reminder of your goals to help keep you on track?

Thanks for reading!

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Katie Anderson
About Katie Anderson 109 Articles
Lean thinker and coach. Passionate about developing people. Healthcare change agent. Living in California again after 18 months in Tokyo. Writing about lean and leadership.
  • Michael Bremer

    I like the visual nature of this. Of course if this is your primary metric in life. You are going to need a big shelf. Enjoyed the post Katie. I will miss the coaching summit. Speaking at Jim and Dwayne’s Lean Accounting Summit in August. Will you be there?

  • Thanks Michael. I’m laughing as, yes, I’d need a huge shelf if I had a Daruma for every intention I set. My plan is to set one a year – or so – of my high level intentions. And most of the Darumas are only an inch or two high (though I have some bigger ones too!). In Japan, they are often burnt every year in a symbolic ritual at a temple – so the space issue is moot. I can’t bring myself to burn them (yet).

    I won’t be at the Lean Accounting Summit, but hope that our paths cross later this year. Your book is one of the top on my list to read still – perhaps I’ll get some time on our flight to the Midwest tonight. 🙂

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