Monday, February 15, 2010

The Kaizen Way

I think it was my blogger friend, Billie who mentioned the book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life. On our way to the coast and back I read the book out loud to my husband. What a revolutionary idea it proposes!

Using a method called Kaizen, author Robert Maurer suggests that rather than attempting broad, challenging changes in our lives, that we start with small baby steps. This way of attempting self-improvement disarms the "fight or flight" reaction most of us have when stopping a bad habit or adopting a good one.

Thinking small, we are encouraged to ask small questions, think small thoughts, take small actions, solve small problems, bestow small rewards, and identify small moments. This is so contrary to how we suppose we are to effect change, but Maurer's every suggestion made great sense.

I have, without knowing about Kaizen, already used some of the techniques. For instance, when I wanted to quit smoking, I started by asking myself small questions. What would I do instead of smoking in this or that instance? What could I do to satisfy my oral craving? In this way, I did not jump in and give up smoking immediately, but I got myself thinking ahead in small ways about how not smoking would change my life.

I resist the need to exercise. Maurer suggested to one of his patients that she march in place for one minute while watching television. To another, he said, STAND on the treadmill for one minute each night. Increase to two minutes, then walk on the treadmill for two minutes, and so on. If you find yourself resisting, go back to a smaller step.

I am going to take his suggestion to heart. I have a yoga book from years ago that gives 28 days of poses, starting from simple to hard. I'm going to do the first day, one pose. Then, when I feel comfortable with that simple small action, I will move to the second pose. Not in 28 days, but in my time.

I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to making my life better. Maybe with Kaizen, I can trick myself out of rebelling.


Anonymous said...

That is really good advice on how to go about doing things that are new and/or challenging. I'm trying that with getting my health in gear before I turn 40 next year. One thing at a time, slowly progressing each time, and being proud for every step I take.

Good luck with the yoga Mamie!! You can do it!!!

billie said...

I actually think this was Peggy who mentioned the book - but I agree with the concept! :)

Back when I was in grad school we called it shaping undesirable behavior and utilized it on a daily basis in the residential treatment facility where I worked with adolescents.

Interestingly, it also works well with horses.

Susie Potter said...

Yay! You're on blogger too :) I'm excited. I'm at work, so I can't actually READ your blog right this second, but I WILL :)

Susie Potter said...

Okay, now I really did read it. I think that's an awesome idea. Maybe I can use it to help me quit smoking.

I really believe it for the exercise thing. I've been exercising more lately (or at least I was for a while there), and I thought of it as, "I don't have to do this today, but I can if I want to," and I exercised WAY more frequently than when I did the whole You-Must-Exercise-Every-Day thing :)

Anna said...

AA got it right when they said "one day at a time". it's the only thing keeping me sane right now.