You’ve made the decision: you are going to become a healthier, happier, debt-free person. You have a long list of ways you want to improve your life, goals to help you get there and deadlines to keep you motivated. For the first week your new routine is extremely difficult but in the second week you’re feeling confident about becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Then the third week comes and your shiny new life plan is derailed by an overly stressful work week, a family emergency, a car breakdown. Soon you realize you haven’t exercised or even looked at your debt in almost a month.
We’ve all been through it. We set crazy, ambitious goals we simply can’t align with the realities of life, or goals so big they paralyze us into inaction before we’ve even started.
If you want to break the cycle once and for all you need Kaizen, a management theory created by Depression-era business management professionals. It’s remarkably simple: focus on finding all the small things you can fix to improve the overall picture instead of trying to start over with a completely new routine.
Instead of saying that you’re going to completely overhaul your life by the end of the year, set a goal to improve yourself by 1% every day in one area of your life. So if your goal is to transition to a healthier, plant based diet, skipping dessert one night and adding salad to your lunch the next day is using the Kaizen approach.
Of course many people balk at the idea of Kaizen. After all, 1% doesn’t seem like a lot, especially in a culture which is constantly pushing us to do everything and be everything all at the same time. But even a 1% improvement you keep forever is better than a 50% improvement that only lasts a few weeks.
1% changes also add up a lot faster than many people imagine. If you started improving your diet by 1% tomorrow, you would be 90% of the way to your ideal diet within three months and the changes would be a lot more likely to stick. Within four months you’d have completely overhauled your diet and you would be ready to start improving the next area of your life. By consistently applying the Kaizen method rigorously to one aspect of your life at a time you could drastically improve four different areas of your life each year.
But the real power of 1% is that it is so incredibly simple you will never feel overwhelmed. No matter how crazy life gets you can always find time for that 1%. It might be the only thing you accomplish if you’re not feeling well or a family emergency takes up your entire day but you can do it and you’ll feel much better having accomplished that one thing than you would if you had only accomplished one thing on a mile long self improvement list.
Stuck for ideas about how to implement this theory? We’ve got you covered, here are a few examples of Kaizen in action:
Kaizen is a long term approach to self improvement that will allow you to experience steady growth throughout your lifetime. By tackling one area of your life at a time with this philosophy you will always keep your goals manageable and you’ll be amazed how quickly the improvements become obvious to you and everyone around you.
Greg Nunan is a freelance writer and blogger at AllHisThings.com, the home of all things manly. When he’s not writing, you’ll find Greg doing his best to raise his three daughters, watching sport and eating pizza, not necessarily in that order.