Years ago, when my commute was almost an hour, I worked with a woman who lived nearby. What a happy coincidence! As a result, we began to carpool. She was the epitome of “all or nothing”. Even with her car’s heater. She would constantly turn it on and off. Too cold, too hot. (Hey, there’s a built in thermostat for a reason! I’d tell her)
She would make pronouncements about how she was going to quit smoking, lose weight and start working out – all beginning that day. I understood her “why”, however, I instinctively knew this wouldn’t work. I would ask her why she didn’t just start with one of those things and then add the others over time. Nope! Not a big enough gesture. Subsequently, within a few days, all those big plans would fade. A month or two later she’d drag them out again.
I hadn’t learned about Kaizen at that point.
When people ask me what Kaizen means I tell them it’s “a Japanese philosophy that means continuous improvement though small steps.” Sometimes I’ll add “small questions, small thoughts and small rewards.” That’s a quick and easy explanation.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. I just haven’t come up with a quick sound bite to explain the magnitude of Kaizen.
Kaizen is huge!
Kaizen is about gradual, lasting change without fear, resistance, overwhelm or procrastination. Can you feel something start to unwind in you as you read the word without? (Oh, and there’s my sound bite!)
How does it work?
With Kaizen, change or goal achievement happens through the accumulation of small steps, questions and thoughts. Kaizen bypasses that part of the brain that throws us into the fight or flight mode, the mode that made my friend give up before she even started. It is intuitive and gentle but it is very powerful. It builds sustainable momentum. When you add principles of creative thinking that momentum becomes an evolving process that reflects who you are, feels more natural and is easier to continue. In Kaizen, small thoughts and questions allow you to act with wisdom as you to build new habit.
Why do we need it?
There is such a pandemic of overwhelm, perfectionism, fear and resistance in today’s world! Everything needs to be bigger, faster, done overnight. Reactive, as opposed to proactive. Just writing this I can feel prickles of anxiety. Corporations want to do more with less and they want it faster; workers compete to come up with big ideas, big solutions, big innovations. They want home runs not singles. They don’t want to see that the more batters that get on base the better the odds of the win.
Looking for the big innovation overlooks the importance of the smaller steps, the building blocks, and the creative process of trial and error – all the things we use in Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coaching.
Stop and think for a moment. How do you bring change into your life? How do you work toward goals? Have you, like so many, fallen victim to the fairy tale of overnight whopping success?
There’s a kinder and smarter way. It’s called Kaizen.