Kaizen and You

The Japanese theory “kaizen” has been applied to many situations from business models to governmental policy to personal development. The Japanese word “kaizen” is literally translated as meaning “change for better.” Without putting you through information overload, I will tell you that Toyota has successfully used this theory to take their company from the lower end of the spectrum to the giant it is today. It has been incorporated into what is known as “The Toyota Way” under the translation “continuous improvement” (there is no Japanese word for “continuous,” so it has clearly been Westernized but is most certainly accurate).
So Kaizen and You…how are you supposed to apply the principles of a major corporation into your own personal journey through life (or perhaps instead you are asking WHY?) Well, the whole goal we are after is striving to be better, all the time. So there’s your Why. The how? Well that’s entirely up to you. I can give you the framework, you supply the rest.

Slow, continuous improvement. It’s a huge undertaking, but let’s break it down. The first decisions you need to make are key. What is it you want to improve? It’s so easy to say “I want to improve my quality of life” but for goodness sake, what the hell does that mean? It could mean a bazillion different things…yet to each one of us, the meaning is specific and unique.

So we break it down in a way that makes sense. Courage to Cross is based on quality of life in some all-encompassing categories. Love, laugh, eat, strive, think, be. So if you want to use those, start there. What improvements would you like to see in each of those spaces in your life? Do you laugh enough? Are you a positive influence on others? Do you take care of yourself with healthy nutrition and sleep habits? How about your personal fitness…is it challenging you? Are you intellectually stimulated throughout your day? Do you make time for yourself on a daily basis?

I am certainly not going to tell you what course your own journey should take; that is for you to decide. But, using those categories, take some time to reflect on what your own improvement goals look like. Keep in mind that it is not an “end result” you are shooting for. Instead, it’s a way of being you’d like to radiate from within. Once you have determined what this looks like (this is not a five minute list to create, this is kind of intense thought and purposeful intention), I challenge you to make time each day to check your categories internally, determine if your “slow, continuous improvement” is on track. Begin by simply ending your days taking time for a self-check, and move on to catching yourself throughout the day if you are making decisions that don’t lead toward your goals.
A couple of rules here:

1) be honest with yourself…this doesn’t work if you are bs’ing yourself on how things are actually going.

2) when you are creating your own personal vision, remember that these goals are only about YOU. You can’t control anyone else, your goals should never involve anyone but you. Not in the slightest.

3) be patient. This is about slow, continuous improvement…changes for the better. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It takes time to make things a habit. I have read research that gives you a certain time frame, a certain number of days before something is deeply enough ingrained to be considered habitual or a “way of life.” So maybe it’s 21 days, maybe it’s 30 days, maybe it’s 7…whatever. Point being…start now. Don’t make excuses and don’t wait for some milestone. Just make the decision and move forward. And when you falter and find yourself sidestepping or going backward…away from your intended direction, don’t waste your time worrying about it, because it will happen, not only to you but to everyone who strives toward goals. Just pick yourself back up and move forward again. And again, and again.
Become the best You on the face of the earth. And celebrate the hell out of it, because you can.

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