The Kaizen Way is a concept that I believe can dramatically impact your personal and professional life without stress, guilt, and anxiety. It’s simple and effective. It leap frogs fear and procrastination and gets results.
I recently asked a friend if he had any resolutions for the new year and he replied, “Yes, I plan to do one push-up a day.”
I smiled, knowing there had to be more to the story, and I asked, “One? That’s a bit small isn’t it?”
My friend then introduced me to the concept of the Kaizen Way. He explained to me that when he gets down on the floor to complete his one push-up for the day that he always does a few more than just the one. He doesn’t overthink what he has to do. He doesn’t worry about how he is going to fit three sets of forty pushups into his schedule, or anything like that. He just gets down on the floor and does his one push up aiming for improvement. It’s simple. It’s neat. It works.
This is a new area of focus for him. He doesn’t already have a massive amount of upper body strength, so doing some pushups every day of the year will be a big boost. The word “kaizen” is the Japanese word for improvement. It was once poorly applied in the workplace as forcibly making employees discover and apply constant improvement, all the way from the head of the company down to the newly hired, to a point of creating a work environment of stress and undue pressure. Kaizen, or constant improvement is a great concept, but I like my friend’s version better because it eliminates the stress and allows the participant to self-assess and reflect on how deeply to apply the improvement. This contemporary version of The Kaizen Way is personal and enchanting. In essence, the Kaizen Way asks you to take one small step each day to make an improvement in your life.
I decided to try this concept of the Kaizen Way in my own life. You see I own a guitar, but I do not know how to play it. I have always wanted to learn. I have thought about lessons, and books, and YouTube videos, and other educational tools, but success always eluded me.
Why haven’t I been able to learn anything on the guitar? Easy. I haven’t really tried. The process itself stops me cold: get the guitar out of the closet, take it out of the case, use the tuning app on my iPhone to tune it, start the lesson, practice, put it all away, etc. No wonder I have never learned even a little bit of how to play the guitar. The key of course has been to simplify the process and redefine what I need to do. Yes, this is a mind trick.
This year I applied the Kaizen Way to my desire of learning to play the guitar. I decided I would learn to play just one chord a day. Just one chord. That’s it. Guess what happened? In a matter of a few weeks I have learned a couple of chords! They aren’t the greatest sounding chords in the world, but it is more than I have learned in my entire life of owning that guitar due entirely to my friend’s simple explanation of this Kaizen concept.
I took the guitar out of the case and keep it in plain sight. I have to walk by it now. I see it, I grab it, and I play a chord. I have actually never played just one chord; I always play a few. It’s working. I don’t set a timer or anything like that. It’s a carefree exercise that is building a habit of improvement and it’s enjoyable and relaxing. That’s really the secret; the Kaizen Way builds habits. It simplifies the process, leapfrogs the fear, and builds positive habits without guilt.
Setting goals and making plans is great. There are many places in our life for rigor. Sometimes, however, we need to relax and apply small bits of improvement without the anxiety of multi-step procedures, timed intervals, and measured improvement.
Imagine if we all took one very small action each day to be a better neighbor, a little more productive at work, or to read just a page of a book. Well, don’t just imagine it, apply the Kaizen Way to your life and see how it works for you.
If you would like to learn more about how to apply this concept to your personal and professional life, grab a copy of the book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.
(Note: A thank you to Michael Matera for introducing me to The Kaizen Way.)