Continuous Improvement — (Kaizen)

There are two core philosophies which have helped me progress from being at “rock bottom” to “back on track”, and I think they will also take me to the next level.

The first was to establish the importance and value of my time, and make it an everyday accountability. I initially discussed this here. I’ll revisit the subject in the future I am sure. It is that important.

The second philosophy is that of continuous improvement, often referred to by the Japanese word Kaizen.

I’ve been on a journey of self-improvement for at least 10 years. Between my various libraries of books, whether they are physical, electronic, or audio books, I have consumed a lot of “self-help” content. I’ve yet to find a book that I would genuinely consider life-changing. That is almost certainly down to a problem with me, and not the content. (Although a lot of books are nothing more than hype!) Everyone is different, and I firmly believe in creating your own toolbox, so you can cultivate your mindset optimally. This generally happens in small increments, which is what the idea of Kaizen focuses on.

Kaizen, as a business concept, is about making incremental changes to a process, and monitoring the results to improve workflow. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that, but we are not interested in the business application of the idea. Kaizen as a personal development idea is all about making small improvements each day.

What changes have you made recently?

One key thing I have done is develop a comprehensive morning routine. In fact it is so comprehensive, and has been so beneficial, that it entirely deserves it’s own post. If I follow my morning routine to the letter, I know I will start the day in a positive way. Hopefully that state of mind will continue through the day, or at least until lunch, where I have my lunchtime routine! Both routines are under “continuous improvement”, and over the past four weeks, have changed in dramatic and exciting ways. Just adopting the mindset that every day is a new opportunity to develop and improve is a positive start.

Learning to be happy with “what we have” and “who we are” is good for today. To have long-term happiness, and ultimately fulfillment in life, I believe we need to realize our potential. That also starts today! Everything starts today…

What can I do today?

List at least three things you could achieve today that would take you in the direction you want to go. I call these Success Markers. When I go to bed each evening, if I see each them all ticked off, I know I am making progress. And as Tony Robbins says “Progress equals happiness.”

The three things you choose don’t have to be big, but they have to be important. For example, I have a free day today, so I have actually listed seven success markers. One of them is simply to “cycle for an hour”. That doesn’t seem like a challenge, or a task, but the process of going for a cycle will enhance my mood, and contributes positively towards the achievement of the other six items. The others vary from writing commitments, making contact with people, or even watching a particular video on YouTube.

I have had many days where I don’t hit all of these markers, and yes, it does feel bad. When you apply the philosophy of Kaizen however, you can assess whether the markers you are setting actually contribute to something you really want to get done. For example, one marker I continually missed was to make design tweaks to this site. The reason I kept missing it? Because it simply wasn’t important enough. The site looked fine, and producing the content was more important. So that marker became a task to find time for at a later date.

Be careful though! If the goals you are setting are important, and you are not hitting them, then you may have other mental barriers that are holding you back. (More on this later.)

As you begin to view life through the lens of “continuous improvement” you will identify key things that can be done to move you forward. And when you start achieving these things, however big or small, reasons to be happy start manifesting themselves everywhere.

Small changes add up, so start making them today.

Now… where is my bike?


P.S — I talked more about these ideas in a video which I made during my ride. You can watch it here.