How to Make Changes the Kaizen Way
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy. To make changes the kaizen way is to take small steps, rather than large leaps, with the goal of continuous improvement. It’s what writers do when they focus on the day’s page of work rather than the hundreds of pages still to be written. Or when a former couch potato starts an exercise program by walking for two minutes today and three minutes tomorrow.
The big advantage to incremental change is that small changes keep the fear center in our brains from activating. Small changes are meant to be comfortable, relaxed, and easy. Kaizen is therefore the exact opposite of the big, bold moves that are often promoted as the best way to make significant changes.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.Lao Tzu
In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, author Robert Maurer identifies six strategies that are part of the kaizen way of change. It is not necessary to use all six strategies. Just identify a change you’d like to make, and choose one or two strategies that you think might help you achieve your goal.
1. Ask small questions
Questions are better than commands at keeping fear from taking over your brain. Small, positively worded questions are best of all. So ask yourself, “How can I incorporate a few more minutes of exercise into my daily routine?” not “How could I have allowed myself to be in such terrible shape?”
If you repeat the questions over and over, for days and weeks, your brain will have no choice but to address them.
2. Think small thoughts
Use creative visualization, explained in this post, to imagine yourself taking a step towards your goal. Maurer gives the example of a goal of eating more vegetables, and a visualization where you spend a few seconds each day using all of your senses to imagine eating and enjoying broccoli.
Start wherever you are and start small.Rita Baily
3. Take small actions
The idea is to take the smallest possible step, the step that is so easy and effortless that there is absolutely no possibility of failure or resistance. Some examples include: getting more sleep simply by going to bed one minute earlier; keeping the house clean by tidying up for no more than five minutes, or losing weight by throwing away just the first bite of the candy bar.
4. Solve small problems
Maurer explains, “Small annoyances have a way of acquiring mass and eventually blocking your path to change.” So learn to look for and solve problems when they are tiny.
5. Give yourself small rewards
The average value of a reward in Japanese businesses is $3.88. In American businesses, the average reward is worth $458.00.
Big rewards are actually counterproductive because they’ve been shown to damage intrinsic motivation. Toyota employees offer the company 1.5 million suggestions a year despite the reward being a simple fountain pen.
The takeaway is to give yourself a reward that has these characteristics: It’s appropriate to your goal; it matters to you, and it is free or inexpensive.
Some examples of rewards include: a luxurious bubble bath; twenty minutes with a great book, or going for a walk.
All great things have small beginnings.Peter Senge
6. Identify small moments
The kaizen approach to change is slow. You will be more aware of and satisfied with your progress if you can learn to notice the small moments of success as they are happening.
What do you think? Is there an area of your life where the kaizen approach to change could be helpful?