An Introduction to Kaizen
The Lord gave us two ends — one to sit on and the other to think with. Success depends on which one we use the most.
The New Year will very soon be upon us, and with it, all the great resolutions for the best year ever.
The problem, as I see it, is that every year, on January 1, millions of people somehow hope to wake up as a completely different person. New Year’s Resolutions in hand, they begin on that first day of the New Year with bright hopes that they will conquer all the bad stuff in their lives, and release all the good stuff, instantaneously, simply because it’s January 1. By lunch time they’ve failed, and all their good intentions go into the trash, only to be revived a whole year later on the next January 1.
Why does this happen?
Well, let’s take a look at what people are trying to change. The top ten New Year’s Resolutions are apparently:
1. Lose weight
2. Stop smoking
4. Save more money
5. Find a better job
6. Become more organized
7. Exercise more
8. Be more patient at work / with others
9. Eat better
10. Become a better person
And many people have ALL of those on their list, hoping to change the whole lot of them with nothing more than a wish and a prayer to back them up.
As we approach this coming January 1, we need to realize that those kinds of problems didn’t come about in a day, and they won’t disappear like magic on January 1. We need a plan. More importantly, we need a plan we can stick to.
Enter the art of Kaizen (that site has the best definition of Kaizen for our purposes, that I was able to find on the net).
At the end of the war when Japan was in ruins the Allied Forces were given the task of rebuilding. This was a massive task, and so a method was developed called “Kaizen” which means “small and continuous improvement”. Through this system Japan rose from the ashes and became a country to be reckoned with.
You see, we can tackle that list of resolutions in one of two ways:
1. We can “Go for the Gusto”, waking up on January 1 and deciding that we will join a gym, exercise for two hours three times a week, eat only vegetables, cut up our credit cards, clean the house from top to bottom, never stop smiling, and flush all our cigarettes down the toilet starting at 7:00 am – guaranteeing overwhelm, burnout, frustration, anger and failure.
2. We can practice Kaizen. On January 1 we choose one small step. Perhaps we’ll only smoke ¾ of our cigarette instead of smoking right to the filter. Maybe we’ll wake up and put on gym clothes, but then change right away into our normal clothes without working out. Maybe we’ll practice greeting our co-worker with a smile. Perhaps we’ll get out of the elevator one floor below our office floor.
You can see that the art of Kaizen encourages us to perform micro-steps to our goal, enabling us to develop small, achievable habits that build on one another. They’re too small to fail at, but each step is important enough to be able to build a foundation of success upon it.
So, what does this look like??
* Take that gargantuan list of resolutions, and write it out in the order of priority.
* Take two months per item on that list and break them down into daily micro tasks. For example, a goal to get fit might look like this:
o Day 1: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, go back to sleep.
o Day 2: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, sit up, stretch, go back to sleep.
o Day 3: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, sit up, stretch, drink a glass of water, go back to sleep.
o Day 4: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, sit up, stretch, drink a glass of water, put on exercise clothes, take them off again, go back to sleep.
o Day 5: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, sit up, stretch, drink a glass of water, put on exercise clothes, walk to the bedroom door, go back to the bed, take the exercise clothes off again, go back to sleep.
o Day 6: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, sit up, stretch, drink a glass of water, put on exercise clothes, go out the bedroom door to the exercise machine/car (to drive to the gym) or street (to go for a run/walk) go back to the bed, take the exercise clothes off again, go back to sleep.
o Day 7: set alarm for 5:30. Turn it off, sit up, stretch, drink a glass of water, put on exercise clothes, go out the bedroom door to the exercise machine/car (to drive to the gym) or street (to go for a run/walk), and get on the equipment/start the car/walk 10 steps, go back to the bed, take the exercise clothes off again, go back to sleep.
We haven’t gotten very far in a week, have we? And yet but we’re probably farther ahead already than those who started with full gusto, crashing and burning by day three. With this plan we’re developing very do-able habits that will build a solid foundation for success. We may not achieve the whole list in one year, but we will do a great job with the first 6.
For those of you who are interested, my PraiseWalker Primer (and all the following levels, not yet published) works on this principle. You are building habits so slowly you don’t even realize what you’re doing – which involves next to no will power – and suddenly you find yourself fitter than you’ve ever been in your life. Try it – it’s free!
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