Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I recently came across the word "kaizen". Kaizen is Japanese for "improvement", or "change for the better" and refers specifically to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement. It's predominately used in manufacturing, engineering, and business management but is also starting to be used to refer to improvement of the self. It's this latter use that I'm really interested in. When I heard the word explained in this way it was as if my world suddenly sharpened in focus. I realised that this was how I was trying to live my life, with a philosophy of continuous improvement and changes for the better. 

I've barely stopped studying since I started school aged 4. After six years at Uni I devoured all the learning opportunities I was offered at work, I took on an OU short course, then a Diploma. I took another short course and have started on my Personal Trainer Advanced Diploma. I'm always seeking another opportunity to learn. Kaizen.

I often despair at the amount of "stuff" I own and try and clear it out because that would be a change for the better. I try to buy less and make the most of what I already have. Kaizen.

I have an allotment and grow some of my own food. I try and cook from scratch as often as I can and try new recipes because these are "things that are good". But I get angry with myself when the weeds take over on my plot and I can't find a free evening to invite a friend for dinner. I start to feel as though eating from the freezer is a cop out (it's really not).

I enter races partly to have fun, but also for the challenge. I get upset with myself if I don't think I did as well as I could have done. I get frustrated when I don't see my times dropping or when I can't find time to put in the work to gain those improvements. I give myself more reasons to challenge myself (for charity, for health). Kaizen.

When I look at everything I try to take on in the name of improvement I see it's not really improving me at all. It's setting myself up for a fall which gives rise this odd mental glitch of thinking I need to do even more to be better. I give myself so many goals that I cannot possibly meet them. Everything I'm taking on in the name of kaizen is actually having the opposite effect. So perhaps it's about time I stopped trying to do everything to perfection and just focus on one thing at a time. 

I will stop entering so many races; just a couple where I can really test my progress against other goals. I will stop comparing my green-fingered efforts to those of the retired gentlemen whose plots border mine. I will complete my current course to the best of my abilities because it's a step towards true self improvement and I will focus any training I do on getting faster over the 10k distance in the next 6-8 months because that is something I've wanted to do for a long time. But most importantly I will start cultivating a positive mental attitude, one of contentment with what I have achieved and what I am capable of. Now that really would be kaizen.

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