Whilst travelling around Japan in 2015, I kept noticing intriguing red doll faces – with a stern look painted on them – no matter where in the country I was.

These unique items varied from one to another, with each having different designs and sizes. There was often one in each shop, restaurant, or hotel I went into. Finally, I found a store full of them, and I had to ask the owner what these curious little pieces were.

The answer was, they are Daruma dolls; a powerful Japanese symbol of setting goals and persevering in order to achieve them.

A lesson we can all take into our day-to-day lives.


Setting goals in life

Japanese Daruma dolls, used for setting goals.
Photo by Akira Deng on Unsplash

Daruma dolls are used in Japan as a way of setting a goal or intention for yourself.

The dolls have a painted face, with two blank eyes. The first step in using one is to set yourself a goal. When you have your goal, you colour in one of the eyes.

After my holiday to Japan had ended, I knew I wanted to see more of the world.

There were so many places on my bucket list. Yet, despite my lofty plans to explore these countries, I wasn’t sure how I was going to see them all in just four weeks of annual leave per year.

Here, I had to begin setting goals, so I decided I was going to leave my job and go travelling. Not only was I leaving a secure job, but I’d also be leaving my friends and family to travel solo.

It was a big decision to make, but one that I hoped would pay off by satisfying my desire to see the world.

I had bought a Daruma doll in Japan after learning what they were. I coloured in one of the eyes and set myself the goal to quit my job and travel solo around the world.


A constant reminder

A Japanese cat doll, used for setting goals.
Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

The second step is to place the Daruma doll somewhere that you will see it every day.

It is going to be a constant reminder of your goal. Most goals don’t require just one action, but a series of actions. The pathway to success is by working consistently towards your goal.

I placed my Daruma doll on a shelf beside my front door. Every morning as I left for work, I looked at it and reminded myself of my goal.

Travelling the world seemed like it would be an amazing adventure, but making it happen was going to be a challenge for me. In setting goals, I realised there was a lot to achieve. I had to save money and plan my trip; including planning my itinerary, booking flights and finding accommodation. I also needed to talk to my boss and my colleagues to let them know I would be leaving.

Finally, I had to find the confidence to travel solo. The trip to Japan had been my first time travelling alone, and it was an amazing trip. I knew I was capable of travelling alone but this next trip would be much longer.

So every morning I would look at my Daruma doll to remind myself why I had set this goal, and why I should keep working hard to achieve it.


Acknowledge achievement

A skyline in Japan.
Photo by Su San Lee on Unsplash

Once you succeed in reaching your goal, you colour in the second eye of the Daruma doll.

It is a symbolic action of acknowledging your achievement, and the doll can be kept as a reminder of your success.

Quite often when we set goals, large or small, and we manage to succeed, we don’t take the time to celebrate the success. We are too busy moving on to whatever is next. It’s important to acknowledge the time and effort you’ve placed into achieving your goal.

For me, after 5 months and 16 countries, I came back to Australia and coloured in the second eye of my Daruma doll. I also realised I wasn’t ready to stop travelling, so I stayed for a few months before heading off overseas again.

I had not only succeeded in achieving my goal, but I was inspired to do it all over again. I’ve kept the Daruma doll, and it now sits on a shelf along with other souvenirs from my travels, reminding me of my perseverance to achieve.

This little doll is a reminder that travelling solo wasn’t just an amazing adventure, but the fulfilment of a long-held goal which helped change my life.

The Japanese Daruma dolls are a powerful, visual way to set (and achieve) your goals.

Yet, you don’t need to go to the far-flung reaches of Japan in order to be setting goals. Even without a doll, you can find another way to symbolise the actions needed to succeed; set your goal, have a constant reminder of the need to persevere and work towards it, and when it is achieved, acknowledge your success. 


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