There is a philosophical theory titled the Kaizen Way, that was invented by Robert Maurer, Ph.D., that I would like to share you with you. The idea or theory is that taking one small step can truly change your life.
As Americans/Westerners, we tend to believe in going big or going home. Our restaurants serve large meals, our grocery and clothing stores often hold large quantities of items and we have places like Costco where you can purchase items in bulk quantity. We love to buy big houses, even if we do not require one for our size of family and the larger the vehicle we own, the better. This concept is so ingrained in our psyche, we believe if we are going to create change in our life, it has to be big!
Every year we invent New Years Resolutions that will help us quit a bad habit, change our diet, get us fit, lower our stress, help us to get more organized etc. and we go at with gusto! Go big or go home! Right? The problem is, every year we tend to let ourselves down. We have the best of intentions and at first, we have the drive, but when we do not get the results we are looking for fast enough, we tend to give up. Or we get so overwhelmed by what we are trying to accomplish, that we give up. Either way, we feel let down and upset, because it should have worked and it did not. The massive transformation we were fully expecting, just did not happen! Well, maybe next year….right?
The Kaizen Way suggests a different concept, one it believes will help you to create success, rather than failure. It suggests, that maybe starting small is a better idea. The concept is smaller steps can propel you faster towards success than giant leaps, because small steps do not awaken our natural fight or flight response like large leaps do. We are also less apt to see a small step as scary.
“All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play” (Maurer, 2004.)
Small steps/small victories will add up to eventually equal large change, but the journey will be more motivating and less fear-inducing. Each time you win a small victory, you have a positive experience that may just encourage you to take the next step towards the next opportunity. At first, it may seem silly, as if the small step were so small that you could not possibly fail at it. Yet that is the idea! Why set yourself up for failure, when you could intentionally set yourself up for success?
One example Dr. Maurer gives is the kaizen way of beginning to exercise. The first step is to simply stand up during the commercial breaks in the evening when you are watching TV. Just stand up for the length of the commercial, then sit back down until the next one, and repeat the process. When that begins to seem trivial and fairly easy, stand-up complete one or two jumping jacks, stand for the rest of the commercial and sit back down until the next one comes on. Continue to slowly add one extra jumping jack over the course of the next few days or weeks for each commercial break, until you find yourself able to complete a set. A set of five or ten would work nicely for the first goal. Before you know it, this task will also become simple and you will be ready for the next small step/challenge. Be sure to pick a simple exercises to begin with and slowly work your way up.
You can do this small step/challenge in the comfort of your own home, no hassle of going out to the gym or having to worry about how others may perceive you. When the first goal of a set of five jumping jacks per commercial begins to feel easy, you can work towards a set of ten for your next goal. To keep it from getting boring, you could pick up a second exercise such as an easy squat. Complete the set of ten jumping jacks followed by one squat, stand for the rest of the commercial, and then sit back down. Working your way up to ten jumping jacks and five squats, and so on. Before you know it, you will be exercising every commercial break for the full length of time. I am sure you get the idea! This is the start of a good exercise routine that you did not have before!
Now that is just one example of applying the Kaizen Way. This theory is easy to apply to any goal you wish to set for yourself. Toyota thought it was such a good theory that they decided to apply it to their employee’s in their factory setting, with great success. All it takes is 30 seconds to get started and you could be on the path to reaching a new goal.