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Last Updated on February 3, 2021

How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

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 July 21, 2021

What Is SWOT Analysis? 5 Ways It Accelerates Your Self-Improvement

What Is SWOT Analysis? 5 Ways It Accelerates Your Self-Improvement

If I told you that there was one activity that you could do frequently that would dramatically accelerate your rate of self-improvement, would you do it?

SWOT Analysis may very well be the solution to your problems of feeling lost, unproductive, worried about the future, and the general struggle that inevitably arises on the road to personal development. It is quick to carry out, reliable in terms of changing your perspective, and effective in getting you the results that you desire.

So what exactly is this SWOT Analysis? You will find everything you need to know about it below as well as how to do it and all of the amazing benefits that it will bring to your life.

What Is SWOT Analysis?

SWOT Analysis is a business term that has steadily made its way over into the world of personal development due to its effectiveness in getting things to improve — whether that be a company or, more recently, a person.

S.W.O.T. is an anagram that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. When assessing these four key pillars in life, it gives a very good picture of which direction you should be heading in and even highlights some of the best ways to do it.

All in all, it is a great way to reflect on past actions and to decide on the best way to move forward.

How to Do a SWOT Analysis

Carrying out a SWOT Analysis is relatively simple. The best way is to take out a pen and paper and write down four columns: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. From there, you can begin to fill out each one and apply it to whatever situation you find yourself in.

If you are considering expanding your enterprise, you might want to write down the current strengths and weaknesses of your business as well as the opportunities that you could possibly move into and the threats that you might need to minimize.

If you are an individual looking to improve yourself, you can carry out a SWOT Analysis either on the micro or macro level. A micro example would be focusing on one specific area of life. For example, you could write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats when it comes to dating, productivity, or changing your job.

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You can also take it to the macro level. You might simply write down your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats across all areas of life — or simply the areas that you want to focus on for now.

SWOT Analysis is very easy to do and is excellent for the bigger picture stuff. Here is a rough template with a few questions across various areas of life that you can use for your own personal development purposes:

Strengths

What professional qualifications do I have that make me stand out from everybody else?

What do I exceed at where most people are either average or below average?

What achievements have I been awarded?

What struggles have I overcome in the past that give me hope for the future?

Weaknesses

Where do I fall short where others seem to excel?

What bad habits do I have?

What thoughts tend to hold me back?

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Opportunities

Is there any significant advancement happening or about to happen that I can take advantage of?

Is there a new position in a company that maximizes my skillset?

Is there a gap in the market that I could potentially fill?

Is there an opportunity that is low-risk (i.e. I can fail fast and decide if I want to keep pursuing it)?

Threats

What competition do I face in a certain area?

What is the most likely thing to throw me off course? Is it me?

If there was an economic downturn, would I be in a position to survive? Could I even turn it into an opportunity?

Benefits of SWOT Analysis for Self-Improvement

Now that you know what it is and how to do it, you may already start to see all of the benefits for your personal growth that can come from a SWOT Analysis. If you haven’t already started to think about how to use it in your own life, here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. It Gives You an Actionable Plan

One of the most obvious benefits of doing a SWOT Analysis is the fact that it gives you an actionable plan. It is rare for someone to actually sit down and write out their strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and threats they are facing, so you will be getting well ahead.

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More importantly, taking the information from all four of these areas allows you to create an effective plan for yourself going forward — whether that be doubling down on your strengths, a plan to overcome your weaknesses, or how to leap at one of the opportunities in your life.

SWOT Analysis is designed specifically to drive actions and decisions — it is not simply a discussion exercise that you put to one side once you are finished with it.[1]

2. It Allows You to Zoom Out

Far too many people are so trapped within their day-to-day activities that they forget to see the big picture. Not being able to see the forest for the trees is one of the things that hold many people back from reaching their full potential.

SWOT Analysis allows you to take a moment of reflection, see the big picture, and then to make an informed decision about what your everyday tasks and activities are going to be, rather than the other way around.

It is important to be able to zoom out from time to time to make sure that you are on track with whatever your objectives are in each area of life. SWOT Analysis is the best way to do just that.

3. It Helps You Recognize New Aspects and Patterns

One of the unique things about SWOT Analysis is that it manages to combine different areas of your life and lets you see patterns, opportunities, and much more that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

An example would be the combination of your strengths and your opportunities. When you look at both of these side-by-side, you get a good idea about where the crossovers are, and, as a result, you get a clear picture of what opportunities are worth pursuing based on your strengths.

Another example would be looking at your strengths and threats next to one another. When you have a decent idea about what your strengths are in a certain situation, you can start to see how those strengths might come in handy when it comes to mitigating certain threats that you might face.

The truth is, any combination across SWOT Analysis creates a unique perspective that will be extremely useful for your own self-improvement.

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4. It Minimizes Risk

Branching out from the previous point, a SWOT Analysis is carried out to help minimize risk [2]. Although this is primarily a benefit from a company’s standpoint, it can also be helpful from an individual’s perspective as well.

On a personal level, risk can come in a variety of forms. It might be an imaginary risk that feels real, like asking your crush out or asking your boss for a raise. It might be an actual risk where you are thinking of expanding your business or entering a new market where you have little experience. Either way, seeing the threats you face as well as the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities you have allows you to go down the path that minimizes risk and maximizes gain.

5. It Can Marks Stages of Your Path

An interesting way that companies use SWOT Analysis is that they carry it out every month or every quarter in order to reset and recalibrate their destination. It can be used in a similar way by you as well. Just like there are certain times when businesses use them, there are certain times when you should use them.[3]

Every month or every couple of months, take the time to do a SWOT Analysis to see how you are progressing. What strengths have been added? What weaknesses have been discovered? What opportunities have revealed themselves or been lost? What new threats are you facing and which have been removed from the picture?

Not only will carrying out a SWOT Analysis on a frequent basis accelerate your self-improvement by helping you see where you want to go with less distraction, but it is also nice to see how things change and, hopefully, get better.

It is also worth looking back at your SWOT Analysis from the start of the year when you reach the end of the year to see how far you have come.

To Wrap Up

So there you have it. SWOT Analysis might just be the tool and technique that you have been waiting for to truly take the next step in your self-improvement journey. It is practical, easy to carry out, and effective in terms of planning your next moves.

Whether you do it on a consistent basis to ensure that you are moving in the right direction or you only do it when you feel lost, SWOT Analysis will always be right there waiting to help.

Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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Reference

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