Some clients feel discouraged when I recommend tiny steps to implement a new habit. They say their problems are so huge that such tiny steps couldn’t possibly make a difference, and to an extent, they are right. Taking one small step, in and of itself, will not solve the problem. What follows that one small step is what really matters.
Kaizen is a philosophy of continuous improvement, and one of its features is the principle that big results come from small changes over time. Kaizen started in post World War II Japanese manufacturing practices, and its application has grown to health care and self-improvement.
The book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, by Robert Maurer, is an excellent guide to implementing a Kaizen approach. The notion of “one small step” gets most of the attention, but it’s really just the beginning. Equally important is the continuous monitoring and adjusting, as well as the collective value of small steps at many points of the process.
So let’s see how this might work in the real world, using the example of overcoming habitual lateness to work. We may start with one small step–making sure the keys are in a secure location each night before going to bed. Eventually, we might add some other tasks to the evening routine, to make mornings run more smoothly. Then we might restrict some activities in the morning, such as Facebook. We may set an alarm to go off 5 minutes before departure. We may experiment with shifting wake up times or commute patterns. None of these things alone may be sufficient to improve punctuality, but each tiny step feels manageable, and paves the way to add a new step. Eventually, the collective force of all the steps makes a big difference and we realize that we are now getting to work on time.
The point of “one small step” is really about making it easier to get started. ANYTHING that will facilitate new behavior is a good beginning, even if that one small step alone does not make a noticeable difference.
Tell me about the small steps you have taken.
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