When broken down the word Kaizen is composed of “kai” which means change, and “zen” which means good. Good change, change good!
It’s described as a process of continuous improvement in small steps that compound over time.
The principle/strategy can be implemented into every facet of our life and can help us maximize our chances of achieving our greatest ambitions.
So how does one ensure success by applying the kaizen principle, you might ask?
Let’s start off with a little bit of a science lesson.
After reading One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way written by Robert Maurer (he has a PhD, so he must be smart), I learned about the three different parts of the brain (forebrain, midbrain and the hindbrain). We are going to focus on the first two parts.
So the forebrain is where the Cortex lives. This is the part of the brain that makes us human, enabling us to think, have rational thoughts and creative impulses.
It’s home to where we can make changes in our lives.
The midbrain is where the amygdala is located, which creates our fight or flight responses. When the amygdala is in action other parts of the brain shut down (like the cortex) so that we can focus full efforts on fighting or flighting (like running away from a bear, or stupidly trying to attack it).
Essentially, when we induce fear we limit our access to the cortex. We aren’t able to go after what we want.
What I’m trying to get at is that the reason kaizen is so powerful and effective is due to the way it works to bypass the amygdala/fear (which blocks creativity) allowing us to use the cortex to its full potential.
Simply put, if you focus on small and easily attainable goals you can circumnavigate the triggers of the amygdala and tap into the impetus of the cortex.
Think about a time when you got really excited about an idea or a new goal for yourself. You started putting together a bunch of plans and actions to begin executing them, and then within a few days or maybe a week later you gave up.
Why did this happen? You were so excited about this idea/goal just a week ago! You signed up to the local gym, went and bought all this new apparel and supplements and were destined to lose 30 pounds.
The fact of the matter is, you blew your load too quick.
You set yourself up for failure not by creating too lofty of a goal, but by the steps and actions you convinced yourself you had to take to achieve it. You began telling yourself, this is harder than I thought. How am I going to keep coming to the gym every day and doing all these exercises, how am I going to keep eating healthy and not go for the junk food, etc.
All of this resulted in a sense of feeling overwhelmed and fearful, ultimately allowing your amygdala to do its thing and that was that.
The name of the game in life is to NOT blow your load too fast.
Slow and steady wins the race.
F the BS: Use the Kaizen Principle Right Now to Achieve Your Goals
Everything we do is based upon gaining more pleasure and moving away from any pain.
When we create a goal, it’s PAINFUL to think about all of the things we must do to achieve it. It’s much more PLEASUREable to just push it to the side and continue living our lives, even if that means staying fat, overweight and unhealthy.
It’s when we finally decide that it’s more painful to stay this way that we begin making changes.
But how can we ever come to this realization without letting our amygdala ruin the show?
With that in mind, you must begin to ask yourself small questions (your brain loves questions, as it allows you to investigate into the inquiry and seek answers).
Ask yourself, “What small benefit can I receive from doing just 30 seconds of (air squats, push ups, crunches, etc) per day”?
By asking questions (in a gentle manner) and taking micro steps, it allows for inspiration and creativity to kick in and begins to motivate you to want more. Plus, small questions aren’t scary, enabling you to keep the amygdala fast asleep.
Before you know it, you’ll be doing 1 minute worth of exercises per day and gradually work your way up. Just remember that it’s important to keep the objectives small, as if you begin to feel like you dread doing it then you know that it’s too excessive and you must limit yourself to where it feels effortless.
Effortless is the key here!
If you can begin to turn the wheel of momentum by focusing on small and effortless goals, you will subconsciously convince yourself that these tasks aren’t painful and are in fact filling you with a sense of pleasure. Once you get to this point, there is absolutely nothing that can prevent you from accomplishing your aspirations.
“Small actions are at the heart of kaizen. By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly – but painlessly! – you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success and lay down a permanent new route to change.” – Robert Maurer