Feel like you need to set out a huge plan to improve yourself? Even though it seems like a good idea, but may just be anything but that! The issue of having huge goals and plans are that they can be overwhelming. Want to save 50% of your money when you are used to saving 0%? Great intentions, but likely to be poor delivery. When something seems huge, it can make us feel overwhelmed, lead to indecision, and then giving up all together. The clear danger is the more you get used to this negative cycle of failing, the more likely you will be discouraged to try again. Or, you may decide to step up your game yet again to chase up on lost ground, only to be bitterly disappointed again. The answer could be as simple as small changes.
I came across an interesting article on the Art of Manliness about The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement. If you are looking to make feasible, long-term changes, I highly recommend reading it. The theory is all about making small, continuous changes. The word kaizen is an Japanese concept, and the word itself translates to change for better. The philosophy was actually developed by American businesses during the Depression area. The philosophy advocated looking for improvements on existing jobs with their present equipment, rather than a massive overhaul of how they currently do it. It was this style of management that helped build the arsenal that helped the US win World War II. Pretty interesting stuff, right?
Think about it – instead of putting all this guess-work into how your life should look and how you can achieve that quickly (which could pay off, but the chances are definitely against your favour), why not build on what you currently have and make small changes/improvements over time that will more likely stick? Small tasks are much easier to action, and are more likely to gain momentum. Each time you do something, you are very slowly building a habit. I can relate to this – when I started my new job after graduating, I decided to walk each day for at least 30 minutes each lunch day whenever possible. 7 years later, this habit is so ingrained into me that if it is raining I find it unnerving that I cannot go for my walk! It is officially part of my routine. This means that even during a busy day at work, I am highly likely to take at least a 30 minute walk. This is a huge benefit, as walking helps to relieve stress and put things into perspective.
Even though Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve, it can easily be applied to our personal lives as well. Focus on just making small changes everyday. At first these changes will be unnoticeable, and you may even think you are wasting your time. This is where compounding comes into play; just like putting money away in a pension or investment, the more time you keep it locked away for, the greater interest you will receive. Improvements will come by just making and maintaining small changes over months and years. You are also encouraging forming new small habits each day; this will give you momentum and slowly build a habit where this is the norm.
Small continuous improvements – this certainly relates to minimalism! The philosophy that advocates less is more, it is definitely applicable here! I have tried this with push ups recently and seems to be working so far. I will do a series of push ups, always take a day break, and then do slightly more the following day. The rest is required to reduce the likelihood of any injuries that could tear muscles. It is tempting to want to do as many press ups as possible to begin with, each day. But this would clearly lead to over-streching, pain, and most likely taking time off to recover, and even discouraging doing it again in the future.
I actually used this way of thinking to get me writing this blog post. I said to myself, just write a few words and see how it goes. I am now over 700 words in. Just shows that a small push in the right direction can have powerful results.