How kaizen has changed my life

Kaizen philosophy is a gentle way to live life with taking small, gentle steps to create lasting change and improvements to your life.

How kaizen has changed my life is impressive for a hardcore (recovering) perfectionist like me.

There is a before and after kaizen in my life. When this philosophy gets under your skin, I promise you, your life won’t be the same. For me, it was a case of discovering that there is a different way than constantly beating myself over the head for not being good enough, not doing enough, not knowing enough, not being brave enough and the list goes on.

But understanding how my brain works and the fact that big changes scared me was a natural biological reaction, took huge amount of pressure off. I wasn’t incompetent, my brain simply reacted how brains do.

What is kaizen?

Kaizen is Japanese and means continuous improvement with small steps.

The philosophy is this:

  • Ask small questions

  • Think small thoughts

  • Take small actions

  • Solve small problems

Change happens and goals are met through small steps.

Science tells us that our brain reacts to change with fear. The amygdala reacts with a fight, flight or freeze response. Setting big goals creates resistance in the same way.

Using the kaizen philosophy relaxes the brain and make your work ahead doable. You literally bypass the amygdala and get access to cortex, the thinking part of your brain.

So, big step and high expectations = you activate fear.

Small steps and low expectations = you bypass fear.

How kaizen has changed my life

How kaizen has changed my life and continues to change my life is by using the small approach to pretty much everything I do.

From washing up, cleaning, writing a blog post like this one, to working with the children at my day job and to creating my first online paid course.

I take small steps every day and I solve small problems almost every day.

Using kaizen is a much more gentle and kind way to move through life, and it's the opposite of massive action, knocking yourself over the head for not sticking to your newest diet (yet again).

Kaizen is the opposite of whipping-yourself-into-shape approach, which I am very familiar with. Maybe you are too? If you are, you know it usually doesn't work.

Related: How I use kaizen in conflicts

Kaizen is a gentle way to go through life.

4 ways kaizen can change your life

  • How you approach any job or task in your home, from washing up to decluttering your life.

  • You won’t get overwhelmed by your dream or goal because you’ll know how to just focus on the tiny, small steps in front of you.

  • You’ll be talking to yourself in a much kinder way.

  • And you’lI be braver with your life because you know everything happens in small steps. You’ll be less likely to get swept away by your brain’s drama.

When to use kaizen?

There is nothing wrong with innovation as a way to create change. Innovation, as the word is described in business schools,  means a drastic process of change.

Drastic change is like when I stopped smoking 20 years ago cold turkey.

The problem is that many of us think massive change is the only way to change. And that's when kaizen is a wonderful alternative. If you want to take a big step or go all in on something that fires you up, great! Do that. But in my experience, those big spurts of energy don’t come around too often. And in the meantime, taking small steps will still keep you moving forward with your change, improvement and work.

Kaizen works also when the first enthusiasm has died and you rely only on willpower. It definitely doesn’t work for me to rely purely on my willpower. I’m pretty persistant and I get stubborn about things. If I want to finish something, I will. It might take a while, but I’ll do it. And how I finish things are by taking small actions, small steps once in a while. It’s a slow approach but it keeps me moving forward.

It’s easier also to create a new habit by using small steps than by simply trusting you’ll always “feel like it” because you won’t feel like it most of the time. The smaller steps you use, the less resistance you’ll feel which will give you a bigger chance of implementing your new habit, which will create more and more new pathways in your brain, which will eventually automate your new behavior into a new habit.

It goes like this:

Small, tiny steps = less resistance.

Less resistance = more likely to implement new action

The more times you do new action = more new pathways created in your brain.

More pathways = automate action = new habit build.

This is a pattern that will build a new habit if used continuously over time. I’ve used it to build a daily creative work habit for myself. Whether it’ll work to create a healthier lifestyle habit, I don’t know. But I’d like to give it a go.

Related: How to change any habit.

How to use kaizen

Robert Maurer talks about 6 strategies to kaizen in his brilliant book "One small step can change your life - the kaizen way":

  • asking small questions to dispel fear and inspire creativity

  • thinking small thoughts to develop new skills and habits - without moving a muscle

  • taking small actions that guarantee success

  • solving small problems, even when you're faced with an overwhelming crisis

  • bestowing small rewards to yourself or others to produce the best results

  • recognizing the small but crucial moments that everyone else ignores

In this small book, Bob Maurer goes into details of these 6 strategies. Using small steps is the strategy that works for me best. I use it every day.

I hope you have been inspired to use the kaizen approach in your own life. And I recommend Bob's book if you want to learn more. Bob's our kaizen-muse creativity coach "mascot", one of our teachers, and he is a kind man.

What you do now..

Download my workbook, by joining my Sunday letters below, because in that workbook you get a template for breaking down any goal you have into small steps. Try it for yourself.