I honestly forget where I first heard the term “kaizen” (just racked my brain for ten minutes and…nothing!), but I recall hearing it about six months ago. The very first second I heard it, I knew it would stick with me. The philosophy of kaizen is one I now incorporate into every facet of my daily life.
Since direct translations between languages are often not possible, the best English translation of kaizen is this:
Kaizen = a continuous, long-term, incremental approach to improvement
Possibly, you’ve heard or read about this philosophy before in relation to Toyota; the company has touted its embodiment of kaizen in order to achieve the most efficient model of manufacturing. Because of this, kaizen is often associated with business models, but I think its application to personal biohacking is equally significant!
In English, we have the word “improvement,” but what I love about the definition of kaizen is that it encompasses so much more. Adding the words “continuous,” “long-term,” and “incremental” to my understanding of “improvement” has completely reshaped my outlook on self betterment. Allow me to elaborate…
The freeing notion of “continuous” and “long-term” improvement
As it’s often tritely said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” We all know this, but if you’re like me you often want instant results. The emphasis of the continuous and long-term aspects of improvement in the definition of kaizen is both freeing and inspiring. It’s absolutely okay not to be the best version of yourself right this very moment as long as you’re continually aiming to be better.
The reality of “incremental” improvement
Further, it’s important not to take on or expect too much when striving for some type of life improvement. Drastic and impulsive changes are often not lasting. Another trite reminder: “Slow and steady wins the race!”
One personal example of kaizen in my life
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve incorporated the kaizen mindset into almost every realm of my life, but I will not bore you with too many mundane details. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of just one example…
Several months ago (about the time I learned the philosophy of kaizen), I decided it was time to reevaluate my shopping habits. The reality was this: I was buying new clothes (rarely, but it was still happening), yet I was regularly wearing less than a quarter of the clothes in my closet. Why, I asked myself, was I habitually purchasing new items? I wanted to improve, so I began to take “continuous,” “long-term,” and “incremental” steps towards self enhancement. So far, these are the steps I’ve taken:
- I unsubscribed from every single clothing store’s emails. If I didn’t know JCrew was having a 50% off sale, I’d be less tempted to buy clothes I truly didn’t need.
- I stopped casually browsing clothing websites in my free time. Whenever I was engaged in some mundane task at work (like grading papers…blech!), I’d habitually pop open a new tab just to “window” shop. But, again…marketing is no joke, and those sales would really suck me in!
- I decided to embrace the idea of “shopping in my closet.” Since I was only wearing a fraction of my clothes, I found and re-purposed some real gems!
- I relished in my newfound materialistic freedom. When I was shopping more, I was also spending time trying on all of my purchases, creating room in my tiny closet, making choices about which items to keep and which to return, and walking to post offices and stores to make returns. Less shopping = more relaxing!
- Finally, I made the mental commitment only to buy items that are either 1) incredibly special and/or tied to some memory or 2) absolutely necessary. This means shopping in boutiques on vacation and buying that one special dress that I’ll cherish and keep for years and years to come. Each time I wear it, I’ll remember the feelings and memories I experienced on that vacation! Also, this means coming to terms with the difference between “need” and “want.” I may want new clothes, but the items in my current wardrobe are likely fine and don’t need replacing.
The outcome: It sounds cheesy (so much trite-ness and cheese in this post!), but I feel freer and lighter. (My wallet, on the other hand, feels heavier!) I’m also happy to consider myself a work in progress. A year from now, my habits and beliefs in this realm of my life may look completely different, but I’m content with the process of constant change towards betterment.
I’m by no means suggesting that everyone adopt this same process, re: shopping. However, I do encourage you to consider the positive impacts the “continuous,” “long-term,” “incremental” philosophy of kaizen may have on one/many/all aspects of your life!
Are you inspired to apply the philosophy of kaizen to one or more areas of your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!