Are you still on track with your New Year’s Resolutions? If you are, respect to you. If you have already started wavering, you are not alone. Our own experience should tell us that our New Year’s Resolutions often have a shorter lifespan than a bottle of milk left outside the refrigerator. Does that mean that we are irresolute, uncommitted and without willpower? Probably not. The problem may be that our resolutions are so intimidating or vague that it is easier to start procrastinating instead of taking the first step in the right direction.
Kaizen, the Japanese method of incremental and ongoing improvement may be the solution. Originally a business methodology and one of the core pillars of Toyota’s production system, the Kaizen approach can also transform your personal life.
How does Kaizen work?
Kaizen means “good change” or continuous improvement. If you want sustainable results, don’t make big radical changes but rather focus on small incremental changes to your habits that support the bigger picture of where you want to be heading. If you can make a small positive change to your daily routine, it will become a habit much faster. As soon as it is an automated action – something you don’t consciously have to decide for or against each time you do it – you are ready to build onto the habit and incrementally apply further improvements.
How to get started:
It is useful to use a pen and paper or type up the following points and keep it accessible and visible to stay on top of your progress:
- What is my long-term goal? Identify what a successful outcome will look like.
- What are the steps you need to take to reach your goal? This can serve as your roadmap. Don’t worry if you do not know all the steps to your successful outcome. You can add more details and steps as you make progress and get access to more knowledge.
- What is the first small step you can take to get the ball rolling? Usually, the first step is much easier than you think. Do it, you will see.
As soon as your plans are in motion revisit your points above, incorporate next steps and improve the process along the way. Remember Kaizen stands for continuous improvement, not an immediate fix. Even a 1% improvement will have lasting effects if you keep improving what you have already attained and consistently move in the direction of your long-term goals.
With many little strokes a large tree is felled – Japanese proverb.
If you want to read more about Kaizen for your personal life, we can recommend Sarah Harvey’s book Kaizen. The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits One Small Step at a Time (ISBN 9781529005356 )