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Kaizen - The Japanese Way of Improving One Self
We all naturally want to become successful… we also want to take shortcuts. And it’s easy to do so, but you can never take away the effort of hard work and discipline and sacrifice. –Apolo Ohno
Kaizen means ‘improvement’ and translates as change (kai) for the good (zen). In business, kaizen means that all employees at all levels of a company work together to continuously improve all functions. By making continuous positive changes, and challenging systems and processes, ongoing change can build up based on the concept that small, sustainable positive changes can create major improvements. The philosophical belief behind Kaizen is that everything can be improved, with ongoing changes. Over time, significant improvements can be made for an overall positive impact on the team.
Whilst kaizen was developed to improve the manufacturing process, and if often used in businesses, but it is a philosophy that can be used in your personal life too. As kaizen is more a philosophy than a specific tool, its approach is found in many different improvement methods. When businesses use kaizen, all employees are responsible for identifying inefficiencies.
But how can we apply kaizen to our own lives as individuals? When we look at successful people, it can be easy to forget their whole journey, and that their success has not been instant. It has taken a lot of years of discipline and persistence with these small, consistent steps to positive change that kaizen describes. Success is a process and it takes time, patience, and continuous action. Here’s how you can improve yourself over time (the kaizen way).
Applying Kaizen To Your Life
Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come. – Dwayne Johnson
There are ways you can change your mind-set to be more kaizen. The first is to stop striving for radical, extreme change overnight, because this is not the kaizen way, and 9 times out of 10, radical change does not work like this. Instead of looking for the magic quick fix to suddenly make you super successful, you can start by creating your own strategy of small changes to work towards your achievements. Keep taking action and improvements will occur over time.
Setting big unrealistic goals is not sustainable and achievable in the long-term. These goals can overwhelm you and lead to inaction. It’s great to be optimistic, and major changes can be made in short amounts of time with the right discipline and focus. However, for change that is sustainable, setting much smaller goals can help you eventually achieve the bigger goal.
Focusing on your smaller goals in shorter time periods does not seem as unobtainable as bigger goals that are overwhelming because you’re trying to achieve them as quickly as possible. But these big goals take time and discipline. You can set them by all means, but creating a system of smaller goals to achieve before you reach this big goal is a more sustainable way. You don’t want your brain to freeze in fear before you’ve even had a chance to really begin.
Create a system where you can take consistent action towards your goals every day and have a clear strategy as to which small steps you’re going to keep practising. Committing to the system is what’s going to allow you to improve yourself and reach the goals you’re aiming for.
Why Kaizen Works
Adopting the Kaizen approach is a reminder that we shouldn’t all give up on those New Year resolutions right now. We might just have to re-evaluate our approach to exactly what we want to achieve.
Taking the classic example of losing weight: a goal that many of us strive for when January rolls around, we can start by committing to 15 minutes of exercise a day, and over time this can increase to 30 minutes a day. Perhaps setting a certain, achievable amount of body strengthening and conditioning exercises could be something to consider. And cultivating the discipline to do it each day is the key to Kaizen.
Aiming for huge change and instant results might give you an initial rush of excitement, but so does Kaizen when you apply its principles and consistently notice small achievements and results, right up until you notice the long-lasting, big result you were always working towards.
Create you small goals system today, and commit to it! And you can rest assured that discipline can be more exciting than it first seems, especially when you start noticing positive change!
Written by Jess Burman
BA (Honours) Writing