Make it easy to commit to your biggest, longest-term, most terrifying goal with the Japanese philosophy of kaizen. Kaizen is the Japanese term for improvement, the literal translation of “good” (kai) and “change” (zen). But the idea behind it is one of continuous, deliberate action that aims for one percent improvement every day.
It’s the baby-step approach, and it works. Small actions will add up to giant changes over time – if you make them consistently. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," the Tao Te Ching famously notes. Is it true?
Bite Off Less Than You Can Chew
Imagine this: you’ve set a big new goal that’s important to your future and aligned with your values. Buy a house. Write a novel. De-clutter every closet. Become more mindful, learn to speak Spanish, or adopt a healthier diet.
You’re excited and gung-ho, flush with the possibilities of success. You’re aiming for the stars – just like we’ve been told to do every day of our lives. You’re motivated by visions of your personal victory, and you’ve set your sights high:
- Save $1000 every month for a down payment on a house.
- Write 5,000 words per week.
- Organize all of the closets in the house this weekend.
- Meditate every morning for an hour.
- Learn to speak Spanish this year.
- Quit eating sugar, refined flour, alcohol, and all processed foods.
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Are you intimidated just reading that list? You start off well and hit your goals day after day in the beginning – but sooner rather than later, you crash and burn. You can’t keep it up, and you throw in the towel. You feel defeated and doubt if you have what it takes to succeed.
Try Kaizen Instead: Improve by One Small Step Each Day
Kaizen empowers you to conquer your largest goals with slight, steady improvements every day. And you don’t have to break down your entire goal into all of its tiny steps – all you have to do is to identify the very next thing you need to do to improve your current situation:
- Save $1 every day for a down payment on a house.
- Write 50 words per day.
- Spend 5 minutes organizing closets today.
- Meditate every morning for 5 minutes.
- Learn one word in Spanish every day.
- Make one healthier eating choice today.
Now how do you feel about the list? It’s totally doable, right? Committing to a small improvement every day is the key towards turning your goals into reality. And it’s insanely easy!
Why Kaizen is Powerful Personal Magic
Taking one baby step after another will build momentum and excitement, and soon you’ll catch yourself eager to spend more energy, effort, and time on your project. And doing one small action every day vs. every week or every month keeps your goal on the top of your mind. You’ll create positive new habits and start to think of yourself as a winner who’s on the path to success.
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