"Kaizen" is a simple concept from the Japanese language, literally meaning 'Good Change'. That's it, nothing more. It can be big or small, quick or extremely time consuming, all it needs to be is a change for the better.
Japanese business leaders have adopted this term, and modified the concept slightly to being one of smaller steps, incremental change, over time, which leads to a much brighter outcome. It is this second usage that I'll talk about today.
I'm sure most of us know that Japanese culture is very . .. driven. Their ideals are high, their personal and societal expectations are high, and their demands on themselves and of others is high - its part of the reason why suicide rates are so elevated in that country. But there is another side to Japan, one that takes into account the betterment of a corporation, or society, as a whole. We can take this concept, and apply it at the personal level very effectively.
We as individuals can be very driven too - driven by our own personal desires, societal norms, parental expectations, job demands, internal voices that say you aren't good enough yet. We often are our own worst critics. I know myself I love photography, but I've often suffered from the fact that my pictures aren't good enough by my own standards, and that makes photography a self-defeating hobby for me. Well, at least it used to be, before I discovered the concept of Mindfulness.
Applying the concept of Kaizen to my life, it basically boils down to this - what small changes can I make in my life, that given sufficient time, will produce big rewards or positive changes? Its like applying the concept of compound interest to your personal life. Small steps, small changes, day after day, tend to build on each other. So lets look at some changes that I hope to make in my life, and how I expect them to compound over time
I'm a creative writer in my spare time, and I've recently decided to devote some time towards that hobby and improve my craft. Part of that resulted in the creation of this blog - I wanted to just write. That's the practical aspect of my hobby, but how to better learn to write? The answer, to me, was obvious - read more. And not just me - read the classics. As a sci-fi and fantasy fan, I'm first turning to those genres, then I'll expand from there. I've made it a practice now to have a couple of different books on the go - currently, I'm reading Asimov's 'Foundation', David Eddings 'Belgarath The Sorcerer', and I have Clarke's 'Rendezvous with Rama' on audiobook to listen do in my car rides. Each line I read, or hear, enriches my vocabulary, shows me how words become sentences, which become paragraphs, which become stories. So, I've applied the concept of Kaizen to my desire to write, by reading for a set amount of time, almost every day.
I've also enrolled in a creative writing class at my local college, in order to see how others learn to write, to look at the concepts behind how to write, and how other authors approach their work. Different mindsets and approaches can be a wonderful learning experience.
I used to be almost 300lbs of couch surfing laziness. I've tried multiple diets, and had success losing the weight twice, only to gain it all back again. The reason was because I was doing things the 'fast' way, losing weight as quickly as possible, without the proper understanding of diet and exercise that form the foundation that will allow me to sustain that.
So, this time, I've made adjustments to my diet, that have allowed me to lose most of the weight (again), but this time, it slower, definitely more sustainable, definitely more enjoyable, and since its taking much longer to accomplish, I'm forming good eating habits that can sustain me over time, not crash diets that can't be maintained.
At the same time, I'm also exercising more. Running, as I've described, is enjoyable for me now. I'm also at the gym a couple times a week, lifting weights, not like I did before (which was too much, too fast and burned me out), but at a more sustainable pace, giving myself lots of time to recuperate when necessary.
Instead of doing things the old way, crash diets and extreme exercise, I'm easing into it, making it part of my daily routine, and watching the changes as they develop slowly and in a planned way. I continue learning as much as I can about diet and exercise, in order to add little benefits like a new way to cook food, or new ways to lift weights to prevent injury, so that I can do it in a sustained way for years to come.
I'll be the first one to admit I'm not the best at relationships. One failed marriage, friends that I saw regularly 10 or 20 years from now I barely keep in contact with anymore. As I changed as a person, I tended to change the people around me. I became more introverted, less able to deal with the 'mundane' aspects that friends, family and loved ones can bring - you know, the day-to-day things.
I've been giving a lot of though recently to the fact that although I have a fair number of friends, I really don't have any very close friends. I have breadth of friendship, not depth. So, I'm planning on changing that.
Instead of having 'sports friends', 'gaming friends' and 'work friends', I aim to have just friends. I plan to choose one or two of them, ones that I think can be both positive net influences on me, and that I really enjoy spending time with, and invest in them. I can't be everything to everyone, nor should I try.
So, I'll be trying to cultivate deeper friendships by doing the little things with them. Instead of eating alone tonight and then reading my book, I'll invite someone over, and tell them about the book I'm reading, or ask about what they are reading/thinking about/creating. I'll call a friend that I haven't seen for a long time, just to see how they are doing, and see if they'd like to meet and catch up. Some may want to, some may not. The ones that do, I'll invest in.
There are many ways you can implement the idea of Kaizen into your life, but it does involve you making sure you understand what is important to you in your life, and put the time and determination in place to start actually making changes. Also, make sure you realize that the changes may not bear fruit immediately.
Kaizen is like planting a garden - tend it, and watch what grows.