How to Transform Your Life One Small Step at a Time – The Kaizen Way
“The Kaizen philosophy assumes that our way of life - be it our working life, our social life, or our home life - deserves to be constantly improved.” - Mr Masaaki Imai
“The Kaizen philosophy assumes that our way of life – be it our working life, our social life, or our home life – deserves to be constantly improved.” – Mr Masaaki Imai
Kaizen, the concept of continuous, slow-paced improvement is a powerful method of accumulating a thousand steps instead of taking exhaustive leaps in order to reach our goals. It is the philosophy of small, continuous change that allows you to better your life without the massive immediate changes.
The history, briefly.
Kai (改) meaning change and zen (善) meaning good symbolises continuous improvement or change for the better.
Kaizen is a concept that evolved after World War Two in Japan, somewhat influenced by business and quality-management mentors from the US. It was used in large businesses to improve production lines, decrease wastage, allow employees to share their thoughts and improve the overall work environment, as well as many other things. It has been implemented not only in business but has been popularised in sports, psychology, coaching and personal development.
Why should it work for me?
Kaizen is not a habit in itself but a mindset and an approach. Humans are creatures of habit and in order to change those habits, sometimes some need to be eliminated in order to create space for others. The issue that arises here is that simply put, our brain does not like changes.
A habit, using the Kaizen method, should be implemented so gently that it doesn’t trigger our brain’s fight-or-flight response to sudden change. It slips under the radar.
However, be aware of the ‘negativity bias’ where we overestimate threats and underestimate rewards. I’ll give you an example: I have very much rejected reducing my daily coffee intake for the longest time. I didn’t think it will benefit me at all and that I will be tired all the time, unable to focus and that my work will suffer. I have recently reduced my coffee intake to a single coffee a day and I could not have been more wrong. The negativity bias, in my case, dissolved after a few days, once I started noticing improvements in my mood, focus and sleep quality.
How do we start?
Similarly to my vision board article, it starts with a simple life inventory. You reflect on your current state, you recognise the existing patterns and what you’d like to change. This is achieved by asking yourself questions and being brutally honest with yourself. You can focus on all aspects of your life all at once, but in the spirit of Kaizen, I would recommend starting with one area of your life you’re most eager about changing. It can be your career, your creative time, working on your anxiety, developing a skill, working on harmful patterns, it’s up to you.
Side note: It’s important to keep in mind that, even with the best of attempts, some things can’t be changed. In these instances, focus on things that you have control over, this will allow you to create a positive attitude towards change and development.
Once you have interrogated your current situation and found your area of focus, set yourself a goal and meet me in the next paragraph.
I have a goal, what now?
Now that we have a goal, the next task is evaluating the best route to reach it. Before you tell me you want to reach a hundred thousand subscribers on YouTube in the next six months (and you currently have 26), let me tell you you need to be realistic. Are you ready to put in work in order to gain over 16K followers a month? Do you understand how much your life would have to change in order to achieve this goal? Is this going to be a sustainable lifestyle longterm? Questions like these are not aimed to discourage, they serve a purpose called recalibration. If you told me you wanted to reach a hundred thousand subscribers in the next five years, that seems a bit more doable. It just takes longer.
Keep in mind true success takes patience and if you’re not ready to put in the work, do you really want it that much?
Now that we know you want 100K subscribers, we can develop a plan.
Set short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals can be market research and finding your niche, making a logo, creating a posting plan, linking social media accounts, finding your network. All of these can be accomplished within a few months. Medium-term goals could be amounts of videos you publish per year or other milestones, numbers of collaborations, paid promotions per year – you get the idea. Cover multiple angles, think wide and deep.
Long-term goals can change over time, this is why I tend to only plan three years ahead (if that long). Have your 100 thousand subscribers milestone as your long-term goal as a start, everything will unravel as you further develop.
Keep track of your progress, whether, through a journal or keeping your friends updated, that’s up to you. Hold yourself accountable, you are responsible for the success of this goal.
Reward yourself when things are on track. Rewarding yourself will give you that extra boost that you need. It is that delayed gratification that we love so much.
I know what to do with my goal, where is the Kaizen already?
The idea of Kaizen is to implement small changes in your routine that might not noticeably change your life right away.
Do you think working out for 5 minutes is useless? How about not working out at all because you can’t force yourself to work out for 30 minutes? Doing something for 10 minutes is better than thinking about doing something for 20 minutes. It is the one per cent change. Once you’ve worked out for 5 minutes a day for two weeks, you can try and do it for 7 minutes, then 10, then 20. It all adds up. That’s the Kaizen idea, small incremental changes. If you want to start learning a new instrument, try devoting 10 minutes a day to it. Fit it in whenever your schedule allows. And then build.
Once you’ve achieved consistency for some time, review your progress and consider increasing the amount of time spent on this activity. Or, if it’s a habit you want to reduce and slowly eliminate, see if you could even further reduce the intake or time spent on the activity. Review, evaluate, adjust accordingly.
As one of the sensei in an anime series I adore says: “Stronger than you were yesterday,” I invite you to just be a little bit better than you were yesterday. The idea is never to stop improving, it’s all about the smallest adjustments. It’s not about changing your life within a month, it’s about changing your life for a lifetime. So baby steps – you’ll get there.
So to revise,
1. Take inventory of your life.
2. Focus on one aspect of your life you would like to improve.
3. Set a goal and a time-frame you wish to achieve it in.
4. Break it down into short, medium and long-term goals.
5. Stay accountable and keep track.
6. Evaluate and adjust as you find fit.
7. One small step at a time, it is a lifetime of improvement – slow growth wins
Best of luck with changing your life. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re here to have some fun too.
Until next time.