You’re sitting in your living room watching a new Tony Robbins motivational documentary about changing yourself. By the end, you’re so excited about the prospect that you rush to the nearest Barnes & Noble book store. You comb the self-help section looking for the one book or audio book set that will change your life in five easy steps. Sound familiar?
You may have read a book cover to cover and even accomplished some of the required steps, but it hasn’t delivered the immediate results you expected. The disappointment you feel makes you disregard the improvements you’ve achieved. After a while, the old habits resurface and take over, and the struggle to restart the process of change is even more difficult.
It doesn’t matter how bright, competent or determined you are. Personal transformation is a long-term process, and shortcuts are not part of the recipe. It’s easy to set unrealistic goals when you’re excited and optimistic about the outcome. You actually use willpower on yourself in a futile attempt to force success. “This time I’m going to do it,” or “I’m going to keep going until I get it done,” you say. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are very low.
When it comes to goal setting, the idea of extreme change is a motivation killer. Research proves that our brains are hardwired to resist extreme change. Rapid change causes our bodies and minds to resist and seek a familiar comfort zone. But this is what we usually do to ourselves. We set the types of goals that require changes in our life that are simply unachievable.
Rooted in Japanese philosophy, Kaizen is a long-term approach to change based on implementing changes in small increments. Used by many different businesses, like manufacturing plants, it seeks to improve efficiency and quality by applying small, incremental process changes. By applying continuous incremental improvements, the business will grow and thrive.
The word “kaizen” is derived from “kai” meaning change, “zen” meaning good. The history of Kaizen began after World War II when Toyota applied the concept in its production process. It became very popular in Japan in the 1950s, and it continues today as Kaizen groups.
Although Kaizen was developed for the improvement of business, it can be applied to personal goal setting as well. In a similar fashion, if you apply short-term, incremental achievements toward your goal every day, you will eventually build better habits over the long-term to accomplish the goal you’ve set for yourself.
Good habits are fundamentally linked to effective goal setting. The Kaizen approach helps us to build good habits by teaching us to apply a small step every day toward our goal. Eventually the good habits will replace the bad ones and you will maintain consistent gains.
Start by breaking down your goal into small parts. Each day, accomplish a very small percentage of each part. For example, if you are writing a book, decide on a writing schedule and stick to it every day. Set a realistic number of words you will write each day and write at least that amount every day. These small steps will be more manageable for you and a lot less intimidating.
If you apply small percentage increments each day, the changes will build on each other until you will eventually notice a major gain. Try it yourself. Set a 3-month goal for yourself. Start by getting just 1% accomplished each day. Yes, it’s a tiny amount but it’s doable. Focus on the practice instead of the performance. Each small percentage will build on the last, and in three months’ time you will notice a 100% improvement from where you started.
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