We’ve all during our lives set ourselves a new goal, resolution, or challenge, and have all at one time or another experienced failing to achieve them. It’s not uncommon to give ourselves excuses: ‘I just wasn’t ready yet’, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow, next week, next month… next year’. We may even start off well, pursuing our new ideal with great vigour at the start, only to trail off once we’ve made a little progress with thoughts like ‘I’ve done enough, or ‘it’s time to take this whole ‘starting a new life’ thing more slowly’. But why does this happen? Often the reason is that we try to achieve too much too fast, get tired of the new ‘responsibility’, or simply because it’s difficult to break old habits.
The practice of Kaizen is a Japanese method for self-improvement. The word itself contains two roots — ‘kai’ (change) and ‘zen’ (wisdom), though it is generally translated as ‘continuous improvement’. At the heart of this method is the concept that a person should practice doing something for a single minute, at the same time every day. It was invented by Masaaki Imai, who believes the philosophy can be applied just as successfully to the world of business as it can be to one’s personal life.
While it may be easy to find an excuse not to do something for half an hour or an hour or more, it shouldn’t be any trouble for even the laziest person to accomplish something for one mere minute. The idea is that in taking one little step at a time, you’ll will move on to the path of self-perfection and achieve great results. No matter the task, reducing the time to one minute can turn it from something unpleasant that you have to ‘get through’ to something that brings you almost instant satisfaction.
In order to achieve it’s important to overcome any lack of confidence and free yourself from feelings of guilt. You need to be able to experience a sense of victory and success in order to move forward. When you are inspired by these feelings, you will more easily be able to increase the time you spend doing the task. In the beginning, the time increase may be just a few minutes, but the more you enjoy the sense of victory the easier it will be to increase that to half and hour, then an hour, or more. Starting with the one-minute-principle allows you to experience progress from the very beginning.
At first glance, this practice might seem doubtful and ineffective for those who have grown up in Western culture – with its emphasis on the idea that results can be achieved only by undertaking immense efforts. However it’s easy to see how challenging or elaborate self-improvement programmes which require a lot of commitment and energy can simply end up exhausting a person, leaving no tangible results. Kaizen, on the other hand, can be implemented in virtually any aspect of one’s life. All you have to do is understand what you want to achieve and plan small steps that can be implemented in one minute, then you’re set to go.