Kaizen - Deepstash
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The Philosophy Of Alan Watts

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The Three Key Takeaways From Kaizen

The Three Key Takeaways From Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy centered around incremental growth, and it begins with evaluating your habits.

The best way to reach your big goals is to start with such a small step that the difference is barely noticeable.

Track your progress with your habits by reviewing them regularly.

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Kaizen Is Incremental Growth

Kaizen Is Incremental Growth

In Japanese, the word Kaizen translates to many things, but the main idea is simply “change.” To take advantage of the power of change, you need to start with your habits. Which means you’ll have to look hard at the habits you already have.

Your brain is always making habits as a way to save power on repeated behaviours. This preserves your mental energy for bigger, tougher tasks. But because it’s so automatic, you might form unwanted habits. 

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Make An Inventory Of Life

Make An Inventory Of Life

Start by interrogating your habits to make an inventory of your life. Get a piece of paper, divide it into the major sections of your life. Then, go through all areas of life and ask yourself if you’re doing all you can to be happy in that area. 

Dig deep to find out what you really seek. When you’re done with that, finish by writing down your biggest aspirations in each category.

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Make The First Step Extremely Small

Make The First Step Extremely Small

Small changes like these aren’t usually easy to make because we don’t see the rewards immediately. In contrast, it’s easier to give in to a bad habit because they involve things that do reward us instantly. 

Kaizen fixes this problem by focusing on changing things in such a tiny way that your brain hardly notices. Ask yourself “What tiny steps can I take to move me closer to my goal?” Don’t discount things that seem ridiculously easy, either. They work!

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The Eating Better Habit

The Eating Better Habit

If you want to eat healthier, for instance, maybe you just add one vegetable to your plate each week to start. Once that habit has stuck, you can add more.

Experts recommend this because it keeps you going in the normally difficult early stages. You’re also more likely to stick with your goal in the long-term when you follow this method, too!

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Review Your Habits And Track Your Progress

Review Your Habits And Track Your Progress

Kaizen works best when you use a tracking system.

Doing so helps you see the barely noticeable gradual changes. Your progress can then motivate you to keep going and show you additional areas where you can do better.

Create your own journaling method to track your goals. Bullet journaling is one option that works really well for many people. You can also get a physical notebook and create your own by writing the days of the month and your goals and checking off which days you accomplish your goals.

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SARAH HARVEY

The emphasis in Kaizen is always on doing things in small stages and treating the idea of change as an ongoing process rather than a quick-fix ‘to-do list’

SARAH HARVEY

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JAPANESE PROVERB

With many little strokes a large tree is felled

JAPANESE PROVERB

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Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement

Kaizen is useful for anybody wishing to change their routine. Rather than making any scary leaps into the dark, it is about stepping back and analysing your current habits, deciding what you could improve in your existing life, or thinking of new challenges you could start, then putting into place a plan to change in very small incremental stages. You will hardly even notice the difference to your routine.

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Yokoten: Horizontal Deployment

Change is infectious and when success is achieved in one area, you are encouraged to apply the same techniques to another area of your life. This is referred to as yokoten or ‘horizontal deployment’, i.e. copying what works in one area to see if it works in another.

The philosophy of Kaizen is just as easy to apply to individual change as to change in a business; it is about setting long-term, medium-term and short-term goals, then thinking of small, incremental adjustments you can make to work towards these goals.

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Do A Brain Dump

If your brain is still whirring, another idea is to get a piece of paper and write out a ‘brain dump’ of everything that is on your mind from that day. It doesn’t have to be anything coherent or fully formed – just write out everything that is troubling you. This can also be a really useful exercise if you wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep.

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Read A Good Book

Read A Good Book

Just six minutes of reading before bed has been shown to reduce stress levels by two-thirds and promote good sleep. Choose a couple of nights of the week where you read before bed rather than look at a screen and see if it makes a difference.

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Wake Up Just Five Minutes Earlier

Wake Up Just Five Minutes Earlier

Try setting your alarm just five minutes earlier and see if it makes a change to how rushed you feel getting out of the door. If this works, try extending this further by five-minute increments each week. Just having a bit more time to get your belongings together can have a huge impact.

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Your Home

Your Home

Focus your attention on improving just one room and see the effect it has on your mental state and how you feel about your home. It may spur you on to want to tackle more rooms in the house. And if you live with others, don’t take all of the burden on yourself; involve your partner, your children and your friends. A stress-free home will benefit them as much as you.

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Learning To Say No: Setting Boundaries

Part of practising self-compassion is not over-stretching yourself by doing things that you don’t want to do. Do you find that you are overwhelmed with trying to see everybody and fit everything in? Try to designate at least one or two nights per week for vegging out, doing your washing and cooking something healthy.

Having more control over your own schedule and setting boundaries can feel wondrously liberating.

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Sticking To Your Hobby: Start Off Small

Remembering the Kaizen approach and introducing a new activity into your routine with the least amount of disruption will mean you are more likely to stick to it. It can help to peg the activity to something you already do.

Start knitting while you watch the evening news every day, or use the ten minutes waiting for your morning coffee to brew to write one hundred words of your novel. When you get home from work, dedicate ten minutes to practising the piano before you do anything else.

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Sticking To Your Hobby: Commit Spending Time

Sticking To Your Hobby: Commit Spending Time

Rather than trying to fit in your new activity when you have a small break from all of your other commitments, allocate some set time to your new hobby. Fill out the time in your calendar and set a reminder so that you definitely don’t plan anything else in its place.

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Sticking To Your Hobby: A Writing Challenge

Sticking To Your Hobby: A Writing Challenge

Rather than sitting at your computer with a blank page in front of you, trying to magically be blessed with inspiration, try to do a small writing challenge each day instead. This can be the springboard for a bigger writing project and will get you in the habit of putting words down on the page. There are lots of podcasts and blogs dedicated to writing challenges.

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Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling Blocks

Kaizen is a lifelong commitment to change, so there may be times when your motivation waivers or when you fall on hard times (unless you’re the luckiest person in the world).

Nobody is perfect, and the idea isn’t to achieve complete perfection. It’s about approaching life as an exciting journey and opportunity for improvement.

There will be inevitable stumbling blocks along the way, but there are some methods to keep in mind to make sure you continue with Kaizen.

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Living The Kaizen Philosophy Everyday

First Kaizen step: if you’re having a tough time, keep a record of one small thing that you have achieved each day, then look back on this when things are feeling better and congratulate yourself on your resilience and for getting through.

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Bottom Line: Change For Good

Kaizen is not one-size-fits-all; one person’s experience of it will be entirely different from another’s. The important thing is to listen to your mind and body, then create good habits that work for you and let go of the ones that aren’t doing you any favours.  

The emphasis is on continuous improvement, so you should always be thinking about ways you can be tweaking your routine or simplifying your life. Staying mindful of your feelings and behaviours will mean that you will be more aware of when you need to take a step back or if you need a new challenge to get you out of a rut.

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CURATED BY

matclar

Diplomatic Services operational officer

CURATOR'S NOTE

Kaizen is Japanese for “change for the better” or “continuous improvement,” and the author explains this business philosophy that has expanded into the personal growth arena to give a clear pathway to reaching your goals through consistent incremental changes.

Curious about different takes? Check out our Kaizen Summary book page to explore multiple unique summaries written by Deepstash users.

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