The Japanese have this concept of Kaizen, a form of continuous incremental self-improvement. It is often cited in management books and applied in the context of companies and organizations.
But I’ve found through personal application it’s just as easily applicable to individuals. The idea is that if your friend hasn’t seen you for a month he or she shouldn’t recognize you anymore because you are now a different person, in a manner of speaking.
You’ve self-improved so much that you are essentially a “different person” now. An upgraded version of your previous self, if you will.
The power of Kaizen
As 2018 is approaching I want to encourage you to try implementing Kaizen in your life and experience its power firsthand.
The power of Kaizen lies in compounding gains not unlike the effect of compound interest over time.
Consistency is key — get into the daily rhythm
The key to successfully implementing Kaizen in your life is consistency.
That means every single day, without exception, you have to do at least one thing that results in your present self being an improved version of your previous self yesterday. Now this one thing can be in any category: health, fitness, knowledge, practical skills, soft skills, to name a few.
This daily rhythm requires strong self-governance / discipline as well as constantly keeping yourself accountable. Otherwise you risk the danger of slipping up in your routine.
I’ve found that doing a daily review and writing down my daily reflections helps provide that self-transparency / accountability.
Daily review and journaling — reporting to your “self-boss”
I started doing this from the start of 2017 and it’s made a big difference in my life.
At the end of every day I take five minutes to review my day. Five minutes is all you need. Your future self will thank you.
During the five minutes you should be able to identify and articulate how you are an improved version of yourself relative to yesterday.
Bonus points if you write this down in a journal. This will serve as a valuable resource to reflect back on at regular intervals or at the end of the year.
You will be greatly encouraged by the progress you see which will spur you on to keep it up. I also find that the process of enumerating and listing down your key learning also serves as a solid self-awareness exercise — it helps you identify gaps or weaknesses in your personal development. Armed with this awareness you become equipped with areas of future improvement as well as a sense of humbleness.
To put it another way, journaling serves the function of increased transparency / accountability as you are basically reporting to yourself. Transparency / accountability in that if you learnt nothing on a particular day or string of days you will know as your journal will be empty.
Does reporting to yourself sound absurd? Think about it, if you have a job you have to regularly provide updates and reports to your boss. People accept this happily or begrudgingly but the point is if you are going to report to someone else shouldn’t you all the more report to your “self-boss.”
Think of your “self-boss” as your future self of tomorrow. Every day you are simply a custodian of yourself just for that one day. At the end of that 24 hour period you have to hand over to your “tomorrow-self” so you’d better damn well show that you have been a good steward during your period of custodianship.
Again consistency is key with journaling, just remember you are doing it for yourself and it will pay dividends in the long run.
I’ll conclude with these wise words from Alain de Botton:
Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.
I wish you a fantastically productive 2018.
What do you think of the Japanese concept of Kaizen? Do you think you could apply this in your personal life? I would love to hear your self-improvement rituals / routines.
Here is some further reading for anyone interested to learn more about the Japanese Art of Kaizen:
Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success — written by Masaaki Imai himself, one of the foremost authorities on Kaizen.
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way — a more modern take on the subject written by Dr. Robert Maurer. This book is tailor made for individuals not just companies.