My philosophy for a long time now is to make tiny changes, it’s a little bit like the old saying of “look after your pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”.
People that have worked with me or have followed my blogs for a while will know that I often speak about each thought being like a droplet of water. thought by thought, drop by drop, when you are then applying these consistently, each little drop will add to the last drops and soon you will have your pool, pond and then your ocean.
I believe that by applying the really simple and basic principles day in, day out; it is these that make the biggest changes in our lives and without overwhelm or criticism motivating the actions.
I have recently come across a blog by one of my teachers Shamash Alidina (Mindfulness and Mindfulness Expert) that talks about Kaizen.
Have you ever heard of Kaizen?
It’s the Japanese word for improvement. It has traditionally been applied to business, but can be used in personal transformation too.
Kai means change and zen means good. So you can translate it to be meaning ‘Good change’.
It is about taking small steps to lead to big change. Asking small questions. Valuing small moments. Enjoying small rewards.
Even though in western society, we are often encourage to make big changes through taking big leaps, once again, I take you back to that droplet of water, for long term change it is always about Practice, persistence and patience (Thank you Juliet Vorster!)
I often like to create 40 days challenges for myself on a variety of things, because to Create long lasting transformation requires this consistency and this can also easily become habitual especially when we create our positive anchors and associations.
The father of Kundalini yoga, Yogi Bhajan, taught that it takes 40 days of consecutive practice to form a different pattern of being for yourself;
“It takes 40 days to break a habit; 90 days to gain the new habit; 120 days and you are the habit; 1,000 days you are the Master of it.” Click To Tweet
According to Bhajan, if you practice something for 40 days – without interruption – you will essentially restructure your energies.
Add another 50 days, for a total of 90, and you have gained yourself a new habit. In my many experiences with 40, 90, and 120 day long, Kundalini yoga meditation challenges, I can personally attest that a consecutive practice does alter your habits.
So when and how was Kaizen developed?
We really only have to look at the amazing way Kaizen transformed Japan.
Following the second world war, Japan was in trouble. Their economy was in a really bad state. And back then Japanese companies weren’t known for reliability.
Along came Dr. Deming from the United States – an engineer who’d made lots of positive improvements in the US.
Dr. Deming taught the Japanese the power of making very small, daily improvements. Improvements that everyone has to make – from the factory floor to the CEO. Improvements were given small rewards too – a few dollars each.
The Japanese took his advice very seriously and implemented the approach across their industries. Kaizen became their culture.
These small, daily improvements added up. Japan rose from the ashes of war on the road to becoming the second-largest economy in the world through processes partially influenced by the ideas Deming taught.
Deming ended up getting awarded by the Emperor of Japan!
Kaizen became not only a business strategy, but a philosophy of life in Japan.
To make big changes, they had discovered the power of just taking small and consistent steps.
Mother Teresa understood this. She’s quoted as saying:
She knew the value in every moment. In taking small actions with the right attitude.
Shamash explains in his blog the reasons that these small steps are so powerful; as follows:
• side-step fear – all change involves some degree of fear. But if your steps are really small, there’s no fear there and so you can do the action more easily.
•You side-step low motivation – motivation goes up and down in waves in humans. That’s how we work. But low motivation doesn’t matter if you’re taking super small steps. Taking small actions are easy.
• tap into more confidence – life can be hard with all its setbacks. By completing a really easy task, you feel great. Especially if you have an attitude of celebrating your small successes with immediate small rewards, like some inner praise. Your confidence and motivation grow.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because research into positive habit formation agrees with the research on kaizen. If you want to create a new habit, think small, not big.
Kaizen and Mindfulness
So, how can you apply this philosophy of kaizen to mindfulness?
You just need to start each day with a really small step. A step so small, it’s minute. And once you’ve done it, celebrate by congratulating yourself – give yourself permission to feel like you have accomplished.
For example, here’s what you could do to get develop a meditation or mindfulness practise:
One of the things that I introduced into my mindful living course was to spend the first week, or so, simply concentrating on a few breaths only, at the same time each day. To associate it with something , such as, I like to do this straight after brushing my teeth in the morning. I also like to check in with myself at this time to see what my needs are and how I am doing. I follow this with a positive affirmation for my day. It creates that habitual practise and soon becomes your norm.
Things to notice:
- The positive feeling of success, even though the action is very small.
- How you can feel a bit more motivated to take positive actions in the rest of your life – a positive ripple effect!
Kaizen is about taking very small and consistent steps to achieve big change. The very small but regular actions have a compound effect on your life. One breath at a time.
If you wish to build a mindfulness habit, try taking just one deep breath each morning, after waking up or brushing your teeth and celebrate with a smile to yourself.
Notice what positive ripple effects this incredibly small action has on the rest of your day and life!
Take care for now
Be gentle with yourself
Be Kind to YOU always