What is Kaizen?
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning "change for the better"
It is a philosophy of continuous improvement. The idea is to:
- look at whatever one is trying to improve
- then do small changes towards achieving that improvement
- do these small changes, continuously
- these changes should be effective
An easy way to do Kaizen
For me, I like to do this in approximately 5% increments. Little, easy to achieve, changes. I've found this way of making changes, easy to maintain. I read a book many years ago, about this. I can't remember the name of the book, but I liked the method, and have methodically used it whenever I needed to improve, or even just change, various aspects of my life.
A 5% change gives a 20% result, according to The Book. That's a big number for a change. I think that it's a bit of a fantasy to always think that we will just change things 100% and then it will work out perfectly. But now and then making a 5% change giving a 20% result each time, this adds up dramatically, over time.
And usually, when we make changes, we do want them to last. Well, I do, so I assume that others do so, too.
I asked my sister, and new flatmate, if she could change anything in her life, that just involved her, what would she change? The answer was: happiness. What a beautiful answer. For you, it could be something different, like:
- be healthier
- lose weight
- take up running
- walk for a particular length of time each day
- write a book
- look better
- do your taxes
The list is endless. If it is a daunting task, then little changes, or little amounts of time allocated to doing something (write a book, do those darn taxes, etc), means that we can gradually get things done.
So, what little changes can you do:
- that you can actually get done
- are easy to do
- and will be effective in getting to your goal
Why does Kaizen matter?
We can relate it to an area of the brain, called the amygdala. The amygdala is quite small, but it has a big role. It integrates our emotions, emotional behaviour, and emotions. But, more importantly, it is to do with fear, and the fears that we may have with things outside of our control. These fear things, of course, are frequently different for each of us. The amygdala also controls our emotional reactions towards those fears. All this from such a tiny part of our brain!
Applying kaizen, small, effective, easy to apply changes to anything that usually causes you to have a fear response, is an easy way to sidestep, or even just minimise, our fear reactions. If 5% is too much - then make the changes smaller. A 2% or 1% change is just great, too.
But how do we make these tiny changes?
Personally, I am totally uninterested in mathematically working out what a 5%, 2%, or 1%, change is. To me, that's a wee bit nutty. What I do, is to make a wee change. That's it! For example, when I aim to do long walks after having, say, the flu... I get real and just do a wee sortie around the neighbourhood. A little one. Then when I'm up to it... I do another one a day or two after.
When I wanted to drink more water, and none of my radical, fancy plans were working (they were in the too-hard basket!), I had a small glass of water with each meal, when I actually remembered, that is! And, guess what? It worked. I now, mostly, get a small drink of water to put next to my meal. Just by doing a very small change, whenever I remembered.