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Last Updated on February 3, 2021

How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

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How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy and practice of continuous improvement[1]. This concept of continuous improvement was first conceived in the USA during WW2. To maintain the production levels and meet demand, the industry had to come up with a system that would allow for incremental progress in production rather than no progress at all – which was very much the reality the industry was facing.

This concept of consistent incremental improvement proved to be a huge success and saved the US manufacturing industry from a rapid decline.

After WW2, as part of the rebuild program for Japan, the Japanese were invited to visit manufacturing plants throughout the USA. The Japanese took this successful concept of continuous improvement and adapted it into Kaizen.

This philosophy formed the base from which the Japanese have built a manufacturing industry that dominates the world today.

In this article, I’ll look into what continuous improvement is and how you can make use of this concept to enhance your life.

What Does Continuous Improvement Have to Do With You?

So what does Kaizen have to do with us? How can it help us enhance our personal lives?

“Persistence, perseverance, and continuous improvement are the ingredients for forming a successful person.” -Debasish Mridha

While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives.

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The Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement is a failure proof system that enables us to achieve and sustain our personal goals and dreams in life. The concept of continuous improvement offers us a way to live our lives to the fullest by continuously learning, growing and thriving.

We live in a world of neverending disruption and change. By adopting the philosophy of Kaizen, we become more adaptable, flexible, and resilient to dealing with the constant demands and disruptions we face in our lives.

What Is Continuous Improvement?

The philosophy of Kaizen is based on the concept that instead of making big changes at once, the continuous improvement approach focuses on making small improvements over time.

Kaizen is often referred to as the “strategy for 1% gains.” It is these 1% gains that athletes focus on to improve their performance. The 1% gains are incremental, and if you keep building on the 1% gains, the rewards are phenomenal.

Continuous improvement is perpetual, so to maintain gains and improvement, you need to work on them continuously.

Your personal improvement journey is never finished! What this means is, if you are truly committed to the philosophy of continuous improvement, you are less likely to quit because you are always in search of the next goal.

How Continuous Improvement Empowers You

How many New Year resolutions have you made and never achieved over the years?

Unless you are one of the small minority who are goal-orientated high achievers, maintaining motivation and the commitment to achieving your goals is hard work and often leads to one big failure after another.

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Hence, these are the reasons why New Years’ resolutions are never achieved.

Continuous improvement techniques can help you to achieve any goals you set. If you commit to the practice of continuous improvement, your motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations in life will never die.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” -Benjamin Franklin

You will never have to struggle with the dilemma of giving up or giving in because it all became too hard. Your achievements and success in life will come as a result of you taking continuous, small, incremental steps toward your goals.Continuous improvement is not about reaching the big goals in life but about taking small steps and improving and refining along the way by solving problems and building improvement strategies that work.

How to Commit to Continuous Improvement

If you truly desire a successful life where you are thriving, the first thing you must do is embrace and accept that your journey of self improvement and growth will never end. It is a lifelong journey of learning and removing barriers that get in the way.Once you have accepted that your journey to improving your life is lifelong and are ready to look into ideas for improvement, you then follow these steps:

1. Set Your Goals Based on the Philosophy of 1% Incremental Achievements

Remember that setting the goal is the easy bit. Keeping motivated, focused, and on track to achieving any goal is the hardest part.

The concept of continuous improvement provides you with a system or a process that will enable you to confidently achieve any goal you set.

“Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want. Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.” -Brett and Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness

It might not seem like much, but continuous 1% improvement/achievements every day will gradually add up to 100%, and the goal is achieved!

In their book The Art Of Manliness, Brett and Kate McKay talk about how the journey of self improvement and personal growth is a lot like a rollercoaster ride—scary, exciting, and with lots of ups and downs.

They believe that following the concept of Kaizen (the 1% improvement) every day enables you to get off the roller coaster ride of feeling like a failure and being angry with yourself because you keep giving up.

2. Break Down the System Into Small Actions

Continuous improvement is a journey of personal growth where you are making long-term, steady progress. It is not about random bursts of improvement with fits and starts of activity. This approach to self-improvement will not give you the sustainable long-term changes you seek to improve your life or achieve your goals.

For example, if you have huge debt and you want to pay it back, but it is all too much, you hide away from taking any action. To put the concept of continuous improvement into action, the first thing you need to do is not focus on how much you owe, but instead focus on creating a system or process that enables you to pay back an incremental amount each week.

Once you have created the system, you must break down the system into small actions or behaviors with the least resistance and effort. Commit to these actions on a daily basis until your original system is habit.

Commit to paying back a realistic amount each week and then increase the amount you pay back by 1% every week after that. Keep going until the debt is paid off.

3. Keep Track of Your 1% Success

The other important factor about incremental achievement and continuous improvement is that you must measure and keep track of your 1% successes.

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Evaluating and measuring your improvements are important for your own motivation and commitment to the journey. If you are not measuring your progress, your subconscious brain will kick in and sabotage your progress by convincing you that it is all too hard and you are not making any progress at all.

Your subconscious brain only believes what you tell it. Unfortunately, you have told your brain a lot of untruthful things over a long period of time about how you are a failure, not motivated, and never really achieved anything in life. Your subconscious brain, as a result, believes all these “facts” that you have told it to be true.

Measuring and evaluating your 1% successes is key to you retraining your subconscious to believe that you can achieve your goals and succeed in life!

Focus on Progress, Always

Continuous improvement does not focus on making huge gains or big improvements all at once. Instead, it focuses on long-term, steady progress.

When you follow the philosophy of continuous improvement, you won’t radically change your life, but over time, with consistent and constant improvement and change, you will find that you are living your life to the fullest—empowered, resilient, and thriving.

Why would you not want to embrace this philosophy of incremental improvement and growth into your personal life?

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will be a stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” –Sir Winston Churchill

More Tips to Keep Improving

Featured photo credit: Rochelle Nicole via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on December 16, 2021

14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit

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14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit
“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” — W. Somerset Maugham

Somewhere after “lose weight”, “stop procrastinating”, and “fall in love”, “read more” is one of the top goals that many people set for themselves. And rightly so: A good book can be hugely satisfying, can teach you about things beyond your daily horizons, and can create characters so vivid you feel as if you really know them.

If reading is a habit you’d like to get into, there are a number of ways to cultivate it.

First, realize that reading is highly enjoyable, if you have a good book. If you have a lousy book (or an extremely difficult one) and you are forcing yourself through it, it will seem like a chore. If this happens for several days in a row, consider abandoning the book and finding one that you’ll really love.

Other than that, try these tips to cultivate a lifetime reading habit:

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1. Set times

You should have a few set times during every day when you’ll read for at least 5-10 minutes. These are times that you will read no matter what — triggers that happen each day. For example, make it a habit to read during breakfast and lunch (and even dinner if you eat alone). And if you also read every time you’re sitting on the can, and when you go to bed, you now have four times a day when you read for 10 minutes each — or 40 minutes a day. That’s a great start, and by itself would be an excellent daily reading habit. But there’s more you can do.

2. Always carry a book

Wherever you go, take a book with you. When I leave the house, I always make sure to have my drivers license, my keys and my book, at a minimum. The book stays with me in the car, and I take it into the office and to appointments and pretty much everywhere I go, unless I know I definitely won’t be reading (like at a movie). If there is a time when you have to wait (like at a doctor’s office or at the DMV), whip out your book and read. Great way to pass the time.

3. Make a list

Keep a list of all the great books you want to read. You can keep this in your journal, in a pocket notebook, on your personal home page, on your personal wiki, wherever. Be sure to add to it whenever you hear about a good book, online or in person. Keep a running list, and cross out the ones you read.

Tech trick: create a Gmail account for your book list, and email the address every time you hear about a good book. Now your inbox will be your reading list. When you’ve read a book, file it under “Done”. If you want, you can even reply to the message (to the same address) with notes about the book, and those will be in the same conversation thread, so now your Gmail account is your reading log too.

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4. Find a quiet place

Find a place in your home where you can sit in a comfortable chair (don’t lay down unless you’re going to sleep) and curl up with a good book without interruptions. There should be no television or computer near the chair to minimize distractions, and no music or noisy family members/roommates. If you don’t have a place like this, create one.

5. Reduce television/Internet

If you really want to read more, try cutting back on TV or Internet consumption. This may be difficult for many people. Still, every minute you reduce of Internet/TV, you could use for reading. This could create hours of book reading time.

6. Read to your kid

If you have children, you must, must read to them. Creating the reading habit in your kids is the best way to ensure they’ll be readers when they grow up … and it will help them to be successful in life as well. Find some great children’s books, and read to them. At the same time, you’re developing the reading habit in yourself … and spending some quality time with your child as well.

7. Keep a log

Similar to the reading list, this log should have not only the title and author of the books you read, but the dates you start and finish them if possible. Even better, put a note next to each with your thoughts about the book. It is extremely satisfying to go back over the log after a couple of months to see all the great books you’ve read.

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8. Go to used book shops

My favorite place to go is a discount book store where I drop off all my old books (I usually take a couple of boxes of books) and get a big discount on used books I find in the store. I typically spend only a couple of dollars for a dozen or more books, so although I read a lot, books aren’t a major expense. And it is very fun to browse through the new books people have donated. Make your trip to a used book store a regular thing.

9. Have a library day

Even cheaper than a used book shop is a library, of course. Make it a weekly trip.

10. Read fun and compelling books.

Find books that really grip you and keep you going. Even if they aren’t literary masterpieces, they make you want to read — and that’s the goal here. After you have cultivated the reading habit, you can move on to more difficult stuff, but for now, go for the fun, gripping stuff. Stephen King, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton, Dan Brown … all those popular authors are popular for a reason — they tell great stories. Other stuff you might like: Vonnegut, William Gibson, Douglas Adams, Nick Hornby, Trevanian, Ann Patchett, Terry Pratchett, Terry McMillan, F. Scott Fitzgerald. All excellent storytellers.

11. Make it pleasurable

Make your reading time your favorite time of day. Have some good tea or coffee while you read, or another kind of treat. Get into a comfortable chair with a good blanket. Read during sunrise or sunset, or at the beach.

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12. Blog it

One of the best ways to form a habit is to put it on your blog. If you don’t have one, create one. It’s free. Have your family go there and give you book suggestions and comment on the ones you’re reading. It keeps you accountable for your goals.

13. Set a high goal

Tell yourself that you want to read 50 books this year (or some other number like that). Then set about trying to accomplish it. Just be sure you’re still enjoying the reading though — don’t make it a rushed chore.

14. Have a reading hour or reading day

If you turn off the TV or Internet in the evening, you could have a set hour (perhaps just after dinner) when you and maybe all the members of your family read each night. Or you could do a reading day, when you (and again, your other family members if you can get them to join you) read for practically the whole day. It’s super fun.

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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