Work in Japan Advice Board

キービジュアル キービジュアル

Creative Career Path

Unity of Thought and Action2011.09.26

    In Samurai tradition there is a school which favors unity of thought and action. Known as Ymeigaku (陽明学), it was at once the official doctrine of the Edo Period (1603~1868), and the most feared philosophy under Heaven, because it represented mastery, not obedience.


    Originating in China with the Philosophy of Neo Confucianism of Wang Yangming, who lived from 1472~1529, about the time that Columbus discovered America ( The core of this mindset was to close the gap between knowing and doing. In modern speech it might be expressed as putting your money where your mouth is, or walking your talk. Any time a school of thought arises, it is often in opposition to conditions which existed at the time. We recognize this today in people whose actions do not match their words; politicians who don't keep their promises after the election, bosses who do not practice what they preach, people who say one thing and do another.


    At the end of the Edo Period Neo Confucianism was considered dangerous, because it put power in the hands of the those who wanted a change. Ii Naosuke (1815~1860), a Regent for the Tokugawa Regime on its last legs, was responsible for the execution, imprisonment, or banishment of about 100 Neo Confucian anti-Shogunal Samurai who threatened the regime, and was himself assassinated by 17 Samurai in 1860, in the famous Sakuradamon Incident, which took place outside the Sakuradamon Gate( This was the subject of a popular movie, Sakuramongai no Hen (


    While Neo Confucianism was probably officially adopted as a means of enforcing behavior to conform to the Bushido code, it could also be interpreted as a philosophy to support authentic action in accordance with one’s beliefs. In the pre-modern period, Neo Confucianism was a serious attempt to reconcile the conflict between Confucian ethics of concern for society and government with personal aspirations for transcendence and freedom ( It is still a contemporary concern. Can you relate?


    Carl Jung referred to the “hypocritical pretenses of man.” The word hypocritical has many negative meanings, deceitful, dishonest, insincere, and its Greek roots suggest a deficiency in the ability to decide, a disconnect between thought and action.


    Western philosophers from Goethe to da Vinci agreed that, “Knowledge is not enough; we must apply.” To this Peter Drucker added an important nuance, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”


    This is the unity of thought and action, in which effective and reflective form a yin-yang embrace. There is one simple thing that you can do to make this idea actionable. Each morning write down your aspirations and goals for the day; and each evening reflect on how effectively you accomplished them. Drucker’s insight was that you can learn as much from looking back as from looking forward.


    Drucker was influenced at an early age by the power of genius in the elusive pursuit of perfection in workmanship. The first influence was Phidias, the sculptor of ancient Greece who carved the statues of the Parthenon around 440 BC. Though they could only be seen from the front, he carved them in the round, because the gods could see them. The second was Giuseppe Verdi, who composed his operatic masterpiece Falstaff at the age of 80, commenting that he still wanted to improve it. This attitude of reflection in the pursuit of reflection had a lasting influence on Peter Drucker, who himself was productive and reflective into his 90s.


    The gap between thought and action is a fundamental disconnect. It is responsible for much of the mischief and many of the mishaps that we see around us. It is also one reason why people slow down as they get older. The better you make that connection yourself, the more you will be aware of the gap, and the more you will be inspired to close it.


    If you can find 30 minutes for planning at the start of your day, 30 minutes for reflection at the end of your day, and make it a natural part of your daily routine, that hour you invest will change the quality of the remaining hours of your day, and over time it will improve the quality of your life.



    • このエントリーをはてなブックマークに追加

    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

    Similar Articles