As a creativity coach, I often guide my clients towards the practice of Kaizen. Simply defined, Kaizen is small steps that taken consistently will, over time, lead to significant results.
I introduce the concept in An Elegant Mind’s Handbook through a practice I use every day called 1% Better.
1% Better – 1% better each day, or week, adds up to, at the very least 52% better over the course of a year. And, as with any growth, the possibility of even more progress is always possible and success builds upon success. 1% Better is accomplished by using the process of Kaizen, in other words, through baby steps.
Many times a person dreams of becoming the person in their dreams – successful, accomplished, connected, and, ultimately, happy. However, considering where they see themselves in the moment, this dream person may seem so far out of reach that it becomes overwhelming to even consider it.
We are often advised to DREAM BIG! We hear people say, if your dream doesn’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough. And every time we hear that stated from someone who has “made it” this gets reinforced.
Naturally, we want to be successful, accomplished, connected, and happy, so we agree. However, what we are agreeing to is colored by our survivor bias – the people we hear from represent a very small group who have “made it” into mainstream awareness. Almost every one of the thought leaders of today have at least one New York Times bestseller. That’s super cool, but there is often a disconnect that happens when we listen to these people, because we cannot imagine ourselves thinking what they think (that’s why we listen to them, right?), writing what they write, or doing what they do.
They are the rock stars and we buy the golden ticket that keeps them on the stage. We behold our creation and we fear it, not only because we cannot attain it (after all, it’s theirs!) but because of what it would mean – taking responsibility for our own powerful creative abilities.
What’s happening is that we have a virtual all-access backstage pass to these people, which can invigorate and inspire, but this access also can promote idealism and often…personal discouragement.
They leave us flying high, but when we look at our own lives, we come crashing down to earth. As a result, instead of inspiring our personal aspirations, we begin sharing THEIR creativity as our own. Consider the human anomaly called the Superfan as an illustration of this point.
So how does that translate to something we can approximate, assimilate, and activate in our own lives? How can we negotiate this landscape and come back to earth?
One step at a time.
This point is so vital to life that without it life becomes pointless. A step is a point of contact with the earth. Each step grounds and orients you. Each step is attainable in this moment.
We learn to crawl, to walk, and then to run, right?
If babies thought about it (which they don’t because they just do it) how would babies achieve success? What is considered a huge accomplishment in a child’s eyes? The very next step.
When we look at our ideal, our idol…if we were to try and consider stepping into their shoes right now, anyone would be discouraged. That’s why most of them share a backstory of challenges and struggle – so they can be not only credible but relatable.
Consider this as well…if we were to get our mind around stepping into the shoes of our baby self…how appealing would it be? Isn’t it more prestigious to consider ourselves as knowing how to run?
However, truthfully friend, when is the last time you ran?
If we were to journey to the roots of what made the rock stars who they are we would see something truly interesting. Each step in their journey to stardom was taken with consistency. They took baby steps with fearless faith, focus, and fortitude. They put in the hours. They celebrated each small triumph, while keeping one eye on the prize. Not both eyes. One eye had to be on the terrain on which they were walking.
And when they fell down (not if)…they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started all over again.
The same holds true for you and I. This is the true lesson of the rock stars. Each step is executed now, now, now…each step grounds, grounds, grounds…each step is attainable. And it’s just as much our trek as it is theirs.
And the best of the best, the ones who share enduring truths that touch the heart of the world…folks like Nelson Mandela…maintain a humble, elegant spirit consistently expressed as an attitude of gratitude.
Consider the many, many years that Nelson Mandela was in prison. What did he apply consistently? What did he accomplish in each moment of his life during that time that prepared him to change the world of his youth into the world of his dreams?
What did he do that we can do too? He got to steppin’.
To follow in the footsteps of our heroes we have to learn to crawl.
Thank you, Life, for my ability to crawl.
We have to walk. Thank you, Life, for my ability to walk.
Then, we run with it. We run with Thank you.
Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say is Thank you, it will be enough.”
Each step can be considered as a Thank you.
The small gesture? Thank you. Each small Thank you offered consistently over time will lead to significant results.
Just do it. Now is always the perfect time to begin.
Thank you for sticking with me to the end of this post! 🙂