Kaizen for Improvement

Although fear is usually self-talk, there are times when it is most difficult to think that it is not real. So rather than attempting to eradicate it, warm up to it.

We can learn from our children. Children don’t say, “I can’t because I’m afraid.” For example, a youngster will get on a high diving board and dive off even though she has never done it before. She’ll run to the parent with a great smile, and the parent will ask, “Weren’t you afraid?” She’ll respond, “Yes, I was afraid; I was really scared.”

But a grown-up won’t do the same thing. If you say to a grown-up, “Are you going to dive off the board?” the adult will say, “No, I’m afraid.” The mental talk of the adults is, “If I’m afraid, I can’t do it.” But the truth of the matter is that you can do it even if you are afraid; it’s just less comfortable than doing something you are not afraid to do. But if you do it a couple of times, you won’t be afraid to do it anymore, and it will become more and more comfortable.

Rather than saying, “I can’t do it,”—whether it is learning a new computer program, get going on the treadmill, or just acknowledging someone instead of evaluating the person—you can do it by easing into the task.

The Japanese have a word for it: kaizen. It comes from the words “kai” meaning change and “zen” meaning good. Its core: Continuous progress comes from making small improvements towards a goal. “SMALL” is the key word. Just take one step at a time when trying something new. This “warming up” to the task will have you feeling competent and successful in a shorter period of time than you would have expected.

When promoting responsibility in ourselves or actuating responsibility in others, take small steps—instead of large leaps.

The familiar aphorism states this idea succinctly: Small strokes fell great oaks.