Here’s something we can all agree on: Failing to accomplish our goals sucks.
You’ve dreamed of starting a million dollar business and failed. You’ve dreamed of being in the best shape of your life at 25 and failed. You’ve dreamed of switching careers by the end of last year and failed.
As if this wasn’t enough…
You eventually start to believe that you’re not capable of achieving anything and your motivation plummets faster than a speeding bullet.
Unless you begin to make positive changes or mentally push through, you’ll constantly keep being disappointed.
But here’s the big secret…
You can accomplish more, but you have to work less.
The Kaizen method.
In the book “One Small Step Can Change Your Life” by Robert Maurer, he covers the power of small changes and lays out a blueprint for how anyone can incorporate the Kaizen method into their lives to build long-lasting habits.
Here’s how you can finally start accomplishing more this year mastering the Kaizen method.
Create Breakthroughs With Small Changes
So, what’s the Kaizen method?
Kaizen has multiple meanings but it boils down to this: using small steps to improve a habit. These aren’t your typical “small steps”; in fact, they’re so small they appear insignificant at first.
Toyota was the first to apply this method to their assembly line. Post WW2, manufacturers focused heavily on rapidly manufacturing vehicles. Taiichi Ohno believed the contrary and changed one key principle in Toyota’s manufacturing process. This led Toyota to revolutionize the way CEOs ran their businesses.
Instead of waiting for the car to be fully manufactured before addressing its defects, Taiichi decided to put a chord along each assembly line. Workers would pull this chord the moment they noticed an error and the entire assembly line would come to a dead stop. This resulted in more efficient cars and less money spent on overhead expenses.
Here’s the interesting part…
The Kaizen method isn’t only restricted to businesses, it can also be adopted into your personal life.
Change is necessary but it shouldn’t make you feel miserable. Yet, it’s easy to come up with excuses for why we can’t accomplish something. The Kaizen method removes most of the common barriers people face when wanting to adopt new habits with a series of small changes.
Common myths about change:
1. Change is hard
When you and I think about change, we tend to think of big steps. The problem with these big steps is that they often paralyze us from taking action. For example, everyone knows that going to the gym a few times per week has many benefits, yet most still fail to stay healthy.
Here’s a fun fact to help us understand why we fail to accomplish most goals: The amygdala was used for safety instincts in the past, but nowadays it often gets triggered in non-life threating scenarios.
So how do you make change easy?
Instead of shooting to go to the gym 4 days a week, try walking at a fast pace across your living during commercials. These tiny steps avoid triggering your fight or flight responses from your amygdala and help you begin making progress.
2. Large steps lead to higher results
It’s tempting to believe that taking big steps will lead you to big results.
While this may be the case initially, your results won’t be sustainable. For example, if you’d like to exercise 30 minutes daily 5 times per week, you’d probably start going to the gym immediately. But willpower would only last for so long before you’d burn out and stop going to the gym completely. Too much, too soon.
Instead, exercise 1 minute in the morning and slowly work your way to 15–30 minutes of exercise.
This isn’t a race. While taking small steps may seem slow initially, you’re building a strong foundation for your future habits.
Unleash Extraordinary Power With Small Questions
Your brain loves to answer questions.
Have you ever asked if a situation could get any worse, discovering shortly after that it could?
(Raises hand firmly)
This is the power of questions. The moment you ask a question, your brain will attempt to answer, whether or not you’re consciously thinking about it.
If you asked a co-worker what’s the color of the car parked next to him or her, several things would occur. First, they’d think you’re crazy for asking such a silly question, but their brain would also attempt to answer your question. If you were to repeat the process consecutively for 4–5 days, eventually your co-worker would subconsciously take note of the car parked next to them to answer your question.
Try asking yourself these big questions and see what happens:
- How can I earn an extra $50,000 today?
- How can I increase my business’s profit by 30% next month?
Chances are these questions will take some time to answer, assuming you don’t give up.
Instead, try asking small questions:
- What’s the most important thing I can accomplish today?
- How can I save $5 dollars today?
This will not only trigger your brain to find an answer but will also remove the barriers that big questions have. Whatever big goal you have, break it down into small actionable steps. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers.
Having a journal would be useful to monitor your progress and make changes along the way.
Ask small questions and begin making progress towards your goals.
Use Visualization Techniques To Prime Your Mind
Often times we’re told to just dive in and start gaining experience with an unfamiliar task.
While this is still a great way to achieve results, it can often trigger your amygdala’s fight or flight mode, which can scare you away from ever trying this activity again.
In the past, psychologists recommended an imagery technique to their patients where they would imagine sitting in front of a movie screen. They were then instructed to breath deeply and envision seeing themselves successfully perform an activity they were aiming to improve.
There was just one problem…
Based on a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, this exercise triggered only a small portion of the visual cortex in the brain. In other words, this exercise didn’t do much to help patients accomplish their goals.
So what’s the solution?
Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist, developed a mind sculpture technique. Similar to the imagery technique, the mind sculpture technique involves imagining oneself performing a task. They are pretending that they’re engaged in its specific actions.
Take Michael Phelps, for example…
He’s won 28 medals, 23 of them gold.
During his training regimen for the 2008 games in Beijing, Phelp’s coach advised him to practice a mind sculpture technique while he laid in bed.
Phelps immersed himself, imagining he was at the starting position hearing the signal, perfectly making turns and gliding through the water. Contrary to the imagery technique, Phelps felt the water, heard the siren, and triggered other sensors that primed his mind for victory.
Here’s how you can do the same thing…
Before you start working towards a goal, immerse yourself in the actions required to accomplish this goal. For example, if you want to become a better public speaker, practice giving speeches in your mind.
Feel the tone of your voice as you’re talking and your confidence as you stare at your audience. Don’t fake any emotions. Practice this technique daily and you too will slowly become better.
Taking Small Actions Will Lead To Massive Results
I know what you’re thinking…
You need to make serious progress, and small actions won’t cut it.
But, here’s where the Kaizen method shines.
You already know that your amygdala triggers your fight or flight instincts, and the more you can avoid triggering your amygdala, the better. That’s why small steps are appealing – they sneak past your fight or flight instincts.
If you’re constantly overspending your budget, instead of cutting your excess spending completely, try this instead: remove one object from the shopping cart before checking out at your favorite store.
But that’s not all…
Kaizen’s simple strategy for taking small action also helps reduce time and money barriers. If you’re a busy professional and can’t seem to fit an hour of your time to exercise, you can try exercising for a minute each morning before heading to work. If you’d like to purchase a new phone, but currently don’t have the budget for it, then start saving $1 each day.
Trust the Kaizen Method.
Many people fail to adopt the Kaizen method not because it’s challenging, but because it’s very easy.
Our culture often leads us to believe that change is hard and requires massive discipline, but this isn’t always the case. You can enjoy the process of change in a seamless manner. Learn to trust the Kaizen process and your mind will find the answers you’re seeking.
Setbacks are inevitable, regardless the small steps you’ll eventually plan out. When you’ve hit a roadblock, instead of quitting, shrink your steps into smaller ones. The goal is to make these steps painless to continue moving forward.
Reduce Your Risk By Crushing Small Problems
Often times we neglect our small problems until they’ve become too big to handle.
Take the oil & gas company BP, for example…
BP ignored 365 “small” oils spills from 2001–2007. Even after regulators expressed multiple concerns about these small issues, they were dismissed by other experts from the petroleum industry. In 2010, an explosion occurred during the Deepwater Horizon drilling, causing 200 million gallons of crude oil to be pumped in the Gulf of Mexico.
All of BP’s 365 “small” mistakes led to one of the worst oil spills in history.
Spotting small mistakes, however, is easier said than done.
You can start identifying small mistakes by practicing the following:
- Recall a big mistake you’ve made in the past. Ask yourself if there were small telltale signs that indicated you weren’t heading in the right direction.
- Identify a small mistake you’ve made today without getting angry with yourself.
- Does the small mistake you’ve made today relate to a bigger issue?
- Are there ways that you irritate your friends and family?
Practice answering one of these questions daily until you naturally start to notice small problems.
Reinforce Positive Actions Through Small Rewards
Motivation will only last you so long.
The trick is…
To reward yourself for accomplishing good habits.
You don’t need to go big. In fact, you should reward yourself in small meaningful ways.
Take Toyota’s rewards system, for example:
Toyota rewards the best suggestion of the year with the “Presidential Award” in a formal ceremony. This reward is inexpensive, yet meaningful. Toyota’s workers provide roughly 1.5 million suggestions each year and 95% of them are put to practical use.
Amazing, isn’t it?
This is in big contrast to most American company’s reward systems, where large cash sums are awarded in correlation to how much money someone’s suggestions save the company. While it’s better than nothing, this encourages American employees to focus heavily on big suggestions, resulting in fewer ideas and even fewer that get implemented. I’d love extra cash, but I’d take Toyota’s reward any day.
Here’s how you can apply Toyota’s successful rewarding system in your life…
If your goal this year is to lose 20 lbs, reward yourself with 15 minutes of watching television, only after you’ve exercised and eaten a healthy meal.
Qualities that rewards should contain:
1. The reward should be relevant to your goal
For example, if you have a set budget each month, don’t spend extra money to reward yourself after completing your tasks.
2. The reward should be relevant to you
Don’t follow anyone else’s reward system; follow yours. Choose a small reward (15 minutes of watching television, eat a small portion of your favorite snack, etc.) that truly motivates you.
3. The reward should be free or inexpensive
If you’re looking beyond your house, you’re shooting too high. Keep it simple, and pick something that won’t hurt the bank nor your time. Here are other examples: Surf the internet for 15 minutes, read your favorite book, play video games for 15–30 minutes.
Remember, you’re aiming to build long-lasting habits. As you continually make progress, reward yourself. You’ve earned it!
Learn To Appreciate The Journey
We all have one life to live. Yet, it’s easy to forget this as we lose ourselves in our daily tasks.
Stop rushing success and appreciate your progress.
“Success is the journey, not a destination.” — Arthur Ashe
Give yourself credit for the steps you are currently making toward your goals, even if they’re small. Most people only fantasize about accomplishing big things, while you’re actually taking action.
Here’s the interesting part…
Enjoying the process can also open your mind to noticing life-changing discoveries.
Just look what happened to British physician Edward Jenner. He noticed that milkmaids didn’t get exposed to smallpox, something most people overlooked. Edward understood that the milkmaids had been previously sick with cowpox, and this exposure made them immune to smallpox. His findings not only led to the discovery of vaccines to cure smallpox but other diseases as well.
Capturing small moments is great, but only if you’re able to identify them.
Here are some tips that can help you identify small moments in your life:
- Look for someone who has an opposite opinion on strong issues such as abortion, gun control, etc.
- Engage in a conversation with this person with the sole purpose of understanding his or her point of view.
- Don’t argue or judge this person’s point of view.
- You’ll know if you’re successful once this person becomes relaxed and respects your interests.
Take, for example, a psychology case study where major findings revealed that in successful relationships, positive attention exceeded negative attention by an order of five. Some of the positive qualities included: answering the phone in a friendly tone, asking about their partner’s day, and putting down any distractions as their partner walked through the door.
Here’s the bottom line…
In relationships, you don’t need magical pills, expensive therapy, nor complex romantic ideas to sustain a strong relationship.
It boils down to focusing on small moments. No more waiting for a big idea to strike you or becoming stressed trying to solve world issues. Relax, and start by noticing the small moments in your life.
Your Key To Success
You’ve started taking small steps a towards accomplishing your goals.
At first, these steps appeared laughable. After all, who gets results working on one small task for a minute per day?
But guess what happened?
You’ve started making consistent progress.
And that’s not all…
Eventually, after accomplishing your first goal your confidence begins to soar and becomes more motivating than ever. You begin to create the life you’ve always wanted and you’re grateful for discovering the Kaizen method.
Don’t you wish this was you?
I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s possible.
Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft overnight; he first became an insanely skilled programmer. The discovery of smallpox wasn’t discovered overnight; Edward Jenner first took notice of the milkmaids. You didn’t learn how to read overnight; you first learned the alphabet.
I didn’t magically love to write 2600+ word posts; I first started consuming content from other great bloggers.
Success takes time.
You have one life to live, so why not enjoy the journey?
Stop rushing success, and begin making progress towards your goals one step at a time. You now have a blueprint on how to adopt the Kaizen method in your life. Although this method was initially used to revolutionize businesses, it can be used to revolutionize your life.
In a world where most demand immediate results, will you be willing to appreciate every small step along the way?
Chris’s passion for writing is to inspire other Millennials to not just settle for “retirement someday” but to reaching financial independence faster than most. He does this blogging at financiallywelloff.com, sharing his journey’s wins and pitfalls.
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