Learn how to change your life by harnessing kaizen- the Japanese personal growth philosophy of constant self-improvement.
We hear a lot about change. “For things to change, we must change some things”. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We hear “practice makes perfect”. But if we keep practicing the same mistakes over and over again we just get better at making those mistakes. Better to understand, it is “perfect practice, makes perfect”.
We think change is the answer, but I am discovering in my personal life that change is something I resist, as does everyone around me. However, growth is something we all embrace. We want the garden to grow, we notice how much the kids have grown, we want our relationships to deepen (grow), we want better friendships (growth), we want our super fund to grow.
If there is anything in your life you are looking to change — your health, your job, your financial situation, your weight, your relationship, ANYTHING – let’s look at growing instead of “change”, which can be a negative. “Who you are now is not good enough –- is not acceptable” is the connotation of “you need to change”. My belief is, “Right now you are already good enough and tomorrow you will be more than you are today. The reason I believe you will be more than you are today is because you will keep growing and kaizen is the miracle that’s going to empower you to really grow perfectly, once and for all”.
We’ve been programmed to believe change is a “battle” —- you have to “fight” hard to win, change demands struggle and sacrifice. This is why we resist change so much. But growth is something that happens naturally when we are in the right environment. Only a few things grow “suddenly”. They go through the metamorphosis of growth (change) each day, becoming more than they were the day before. The word to describe this gradual growth process is called “kaizen”. It is a word from Asia where our son lives. Anyone who uses kaizen can tell you this growth change is effortless, simple and inevitable.
The secret and science of kaizen
The secret to kaizen’s power is it engages the brain in a much smarter, completely different and infinitely more effective way than innovation does. And, by doing so, it is a oxymoron.
Essentially, kaizen disarms the brain’s fear response. For example, we used to go on a diet, lose 10 pounds, then gain it all back again (painful negative alert to the brain). Now we simply are adjusting our beliefs about the kind of food we eat, how much we eat and why we eat. When I learn to love and appreciate myself, I want to look after my “temple” –- my body. I want to reward my “temple” for giving me the energy it does to achieve all that I do. I want to reward my “temple” for giving me the stamina and imagination to create new articles and programs.
When we reward or recognize someone or want to say thank you, we always look for things we know that person will appreciate. In the same way, when I reward my body I want to give it something I know it will appreciate and benefit from. So I don’t reward it with a huge triple-dip ice cream cone which only lasts on the taste buds for a few seconds but on my hips for years. Instead I reward my body with a beautiful fresh fruit salad and a little scoop of ice cream or, preferably, yoghurt. My body appreciates it and ,in turn, performs beautifully for me again. Instead of activating the fear that I am going to be deprived and starve, kaizen “tiptoes” around it. Kaizen presents ideas for change in a way that virtually melts the brain’s resistance and makes it impossible for the brain not to do what you want it to do.
Soon after you start using kaizen, your brain begins creating new neural pathways. It is like the grooves in an old-fashioned record. It is like the program on a computer. You press this button and, automatically, the chosen page or program comes up. In effect, you develop whole new mental software that automatically propels you toward the change you seek, without any anxiety or resistance on your part! It is not hard to introduce one extra green vegetable onto your plate and reduce the quantity of higher calorie carbs. It is not hard to take a small serving instead of a large serving. Instead of having two slices of bread, have one. Instead of putting butter or margarine on your bread, put a healthy alternative or nothing. Instead of having full cream milk, use a skimmer alternative. Instead of eating a large dessert, have a smaller one. I do this not to lose weight, but to value my body and say thank you to it for giving me so much energy and such good health.
Without trying, without even really thinking about it, you automatically will take the steps and actions that will get you the results you’re seeking. You are growing into this new person.
Kaizen’s benefits truly are amazing. The idea is profound, and yet, so simple to begin applying. You’ll find that, without even realizing you are doing it, you’re creating and maintaining changes you may have considered too difficult or even impossible before. Instead of thinking, “I have to go to the gym and work out for an hour and then go for a long walk,” I focus on some movement every day. Each hour I get up from the computer and have a nice stretch and run in place for about five minutes. It works for me — a little bit but often! By having a bottle of water on the desk in a beautiful crystal glass, I can get through so much more water by just sipping away every time I stop to proofread. Before I know it, the bottle of water is gone. It’s all possible just simply by starting to do small things in the direction you want to grow!
Simply by understanding and applying this previously little-known Japanese technique, you can make ANY change and achieve ANY goal you want to, no matter how hard it has been for you in the past. And you can do it with virtually no effort or struggle whatsoever.
Sometimes innovation can, and does, work. Sometimes the doctor’s report saying you have three months to live if you don’t quit smoking can be the alarm that stops you in your tracks. And when it does, it’s great. (Too bad it had to get to that point.) However, innovation, where we are taking big, radical steps to achieve change, is frightening.
Innovation fails not because of weak willpower or lack of discipline. It fails because of simple biology. More simply put, the thought of change ignites fear. When you present an innovation (in the form of a large, intimidating goal or dramatic routine change) to your brain, a series of complex neurological processes are set in motion that work against the achievement of change.
That tightening in your chest … that feeling of being frozen – paralyzed – that mounting sense of panic and anxiety … when you’ve thought about a “big thing” you needed to do — that’s the body’s reaction. It’s not just a feeling; it is this complex biological/neurological process at work. In a very real way, you ARE paralyzed! This is why innovation so often results in failure. Kaizen could be the better way to go. Grow, choose the oxymoron of change, instead of facing the fear of change. As nature intended, when you see yourself one year from today, you will be that ten pounds lighter. You will be a better person. You will be a better conversationalist. You will be able to save money. You will have better relationships. Why? Because you have grown into them. You have become the person. Kaizen.