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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I learned a new word: Kaizen

Recently, on The Art of Simple, Tsh shared a word that was new to me but fit in with my style of goals and change.  The word is Kaizen.  It is a Japanese word for continuous improvement and was introduced to the West during the 1986 Olympics.  The basics imply that there is no end to goals, only continued striving for better.  Small, continual changes that create improvement over time.  Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis and always improving.

For me, the part that works is the small, continuous aspect.  I don't have to cut all the carbs or immediately start running five miles per day.  I can do something to improve today, I don't have to do everything.

After the birth of my third child, I needed to improve my physical health.  I wanted to be a runner, but I had never run as a habit in my life.  I could walk and so I committed to walking at least one mile everyday.  I decided to be just as committed to that as I was to brushing my teeth and it was a habit that stuck.  Within a year, I was walking much more and was able to try running.  I began with the goal of running one mile.  The first run, I ran half a mile, then walked the rest.  I kept doing it every day.  Soon I pushed the goal and then stretched it a bit more.  Quickly I worked up to running a mile, then two miles.  The small daily pushes feel much more manageable to me.

I want my tupperware cabinet to be less chaotic, so I'm slowly replacing all the mismatched pieces with orderly, stackable coordinates.  I haven't found an afternoon to do the whole thing (which would totally work for some people) so I just get a new piece or two when I can, and then toss older ones as I use them instead of washing and stacking them.  Eventually, I will have fewer containers and a more orderly cabinet.  This works for me.

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Without knowing the word that describes the concept, I have applied it to reading, to organizing, to changing personal habits, reaching out to others, and more goals I want in my life.  It works for me and saves me from feelings of failure when I don't accomplish it all at once.

The strategy can be applied toward almost any area. Often the concept is used in business.  It makes sense in personal relationships, fitness, community involvement and even relationships.    Another area in which this makes sense is in gardening - I don't have the energy to transform an entire lawn in one season, but bit by bit, it will improve.  I get excited just thinking of all the possibilities!

In some ways, this sounds like the opposite of my mantra that "You are Enough," but actually it fits right into that model.  Today, I am enough.  But that doesn't give me permission to stagnate and stay the way I am right now forever.  We must each strive for progress, not perfection.  We can't be perfect, we can be better.

Have you heard of the concept of Kaizen?  Do you recognize any benefits?  Are you a dive right in person, or make little changes type?  I don't know why this is so exciting to me, but I think I love the possibilities that feel within grasp.

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