Kaizen= Slow and Easy Wins the Race
KAIZEN= BABY STEPS
KAIZEN- This one little word, is a word that I use regularly in my health coaching practice, yoga teaching, how I raise my kids and in how I work toward my own goals.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that literally mean "good change" or "change for the good". It means making small 1% incremental steps toward your goals. It's a philosophy around becoming a little better each day- small improvements every day. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the janitor.
SMALL SLOW STEPS
We’re all familiar with the term “baby steps” or “one foot in front of the other”. Kaizen is the same thing. When we add up those 1% daily improvements with a clear goal that we are working towards, this can be a very powerful tool in how we make change, how we stay on track and clarify our goals. There’s a time and place for “big steps” or “cold turkey”. But what I’ve learned, is that small incremental shifts and steps in a specific direction has much more power and is less stressful on the physiology and nervous system. Not only that, but it’s not aligned with perfectionism and comes from a much more loving place.
Our culture is all about “do it right, or don’t do it all” or “if I can’t do it perfectly, why bother”. We want things done NOW and if doesn’t happen NOW it’s not worth the trouble or the effort. Any of this sound familiar? We also have a tendency to get distracted easily with so many bright and shiny objects, offers and alternatives that nobody has the patience, or apparently the time, to let things happen a little more easefully and at a slower pace. We want what we want and if we can’t have it yesterday we’re on to the next thing.
Now this perfectionist mentality is what keeps us stuck from making real progress in our lives. We think that if we can’t do it perfectly there’s something “wrong” with us. Enter stage left…..EGO. This is yet another disguise that our ego will sport because it’s fearful of ..wait for it…..FAILURE. If I fail then “I’m not good enough”...so why bother trying.
Author, coach and speaker Marisa Peer, calls the “I’m not enough” syndrome, the biggest disease affecting humanity. See how nicely they hold each other up?
So what if we took the stance, “good enough can be good enough” or “slow and steady wins the race”, instead of all or nothing? This process relieves us of the stress we put on ourselves to be perfect and stops us from really living into our true potential. This method keeps us moving forward with so much less resistance, fear and pressure. Ever heard the story about the tortoise and the hare- same philosophy.
What is the one daily habit that you can implement easily, that is aligned with your bigger goal? It’s from that place that we build momentum on the path to where we want to go and what we want in our lives. Make it so easy you can’t not do it.
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
In yoga the term Abhyāsa (in Hinduism) means a spiritual practice which is regularly and constantly practised over a long period of time. Same thing here.
The journey is just as important as reaching our destination. It’s through the mindful process of taking steps along the path that inform our overall experience along the way AND the final goal. Repetition over time trains us into a new habit and creates better, more intentional habits. Sometimes repetition might feel boring and dull, but what we’re doing is training ourselves into a new way of doing things and over time mastering it.
What system can you put into place to remind you to do your small new habit daily? We all need reminders, especially when starting something new. I like to use a trigger of some sort, a reminder to do my small step. That could be a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, a timer on your smart phone or a note in your journal. Recently I’ve been asking Siri to remind me- works like a charm.
CHANGE TAKES TIME AND PATIENCE
With change comes resistance. It’s so much easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing, what’s easiest and what takes little to no effort. The ego likes to keep things familiar and safe with zero stakes- it’s self protection. Even if the current situation is less than ideal or even causing us suffering on some level, the ego would rather NOT CHANGE.
More than likely we’re well aware of the change we need to make in our life to live the lives we truly desire and deserve. The hardest part is when we know it, and do nothing, then we suffer even more. Ignorance can definitely be bliss. It’s more painful to perpetuate that which we know is not serving us then if we didn’t know it in the first place.
The yogis call this “Prajnaparadha”. This Sanskrit word literally meaning “crimes against wisdom” or not learning from our yesterdays. It's a central concept in yoga and ayurveda because it's understood that doing things we know we shouldn't is the cause of most diseases and other sufferings.”
So how do we start to slow the momentum of years moving in one direction, and steer the ship in a new direction. The new direction that is guiding us towards our goals and aligned with what’s best for our mind, body and spirit?
First we have to set it up so that we can intercept the egos’ immediate natural reaction. If we can strategically slip in a small habit that we do daily, we can slowly train the ego to make friends with it- eventually outsmarting it. Soon enough the ego will begin to attach to the “new” way of doing things and soon enough the “old” way will be left in the dust. Yes, it is easier said than done BUT, when what we want at the finish line has more meaning and payoff for us then what we’re currently experiencing, then it’s worth it.
We’ve all set goals when we’ve been highly motivated ie: milestone birthdays, New Years etc. and then lost our way only three weeks in. Chances are, we bit off more than we could chew, didn’t have a strategy around HOW we were going to make the change or reach the goal, or just didn’t have the faith in ourselves that we could actually do it (enter ego/ fear). The push to fall back into the old and familiar was stronger then the vision and pull to bring us forward into the more life affirming new way.
Give Kaizen a shot. Pick a goal ie: exercise for 1 hour/ 4 days a week. Then break it down and start small. What is doable in your schedule? What time of day would be best? Where can you realistically envision fitting 15 minutes of exercise into your day twice a week? What days are best? What kind of exercise do you actually enjoy? Set yourself up for success.