Last weekend, I picked up a book I’d begun reading a while ago, about Kaizen. Kaizen is a philosophy, an approach to creating changes in one’s life and beyond that’s so basic, so obvious, that you might be tempted to dismiss it at first.
As I did, the first time I began reading about it.
In a nutshell, the Kaizen method espouses taking small, doable steps in order to create significant change. The practice, while ancient, gained widespread popularity in the United States when it was introduced to improve organizational productivity in American factories during World War II. After the war, Japanese manufacturers enthusiastically embraced the methodology in rebuilding their own beleaguered nation, giving the philosophy it’s Kaizen name.
In his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
Dr. Robert Maurer brings Kaizen from an organizational methodology to an individual practice. As opposed to attempting drastic lifestyle changes such as crash diets or impulsively quitting one’s job, Maurer promotes practicing Kaizen to achieve a desired state, accomplish a goal or realize a dream by implementing small, seemingly insignificant daily actions.
It makes total sense, actually, and explains why most people abandon New Year’s resolutions within the first few weeks; we vow to transform our bodies with rigorous exercise routines and our personalities with radical shifts in our approaches to life, love and the pursuit of happiness, only to meet up with stiff resistance from the bodies and personalities we’ve built up over years of repetitive behaviors.
Small wonder that most of us surrender within a short period of time and slip back into the comfortable and familiar. Who really wants to conduct a daily war with oneself?
Conversely, why not give our self-esteems a boost by setting goals that are entirely achievable?
Without even knowing I was doing so, I began practicing Kaizen with my writing at the beginning of the 2016, by putting in at least 15 to 20 minutes every morning at my keyboard before I get ready for work. Rather than skimming through Facebook posts or my email inbox as I usually did that time of day, I either start with a blank Word page or open a document I’d started on a previous day, and coax thoughts, ideas and words from my brain or heart onto the screen.
As of today, January 16, I have only missed two days so far—one because I overslept, and the second because I wanted to track down the name and phone number of someone who offered last year to help out in my partner’s business, which took longer than I thought it would.
And you know what? It feels pretty darn good so far. If I had vowed to write for an hour a day, I know I would have faltered early.
Here’s another fact. According to Dr. Mauer (and even Running Magazine), running an hour a day does not counteract the ill effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. We office workers, writers and couch potatoes—even runners–would be doing our bodies a much greater service if we stood up and stretched at regular intervals, or took short walks every 30 minutes or so.
I mean, who couldn’t accomplish that? (On that note I just stood up and stretched.)
Anyway, I’m not done reading the book yet, and I’m just have two weeks under my belt writing-wise, so it’s still too soon to tell whether or not I’ll remain committed, or what changes will result from this and other small, positive practices I implement. I guess it’s sort of like planting seeds and nurturing them.
It’ll be neat to see what springs from them over time.