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Baby steps

Lots of Little Changes

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: Radhika Bhagwat

Imaginary obstacles are insurmountable. Real ones aren’t. But you can’t tell the difference when you have no real information. Fear can create even more imaginary obstacles than ignorance can. That’s why the smallest step away from speculation and into reality can be an amazing relief. The Reality Solution means: Do it before you’re ready.

— Barbara Sher

You and I both know that we have lots of self-improvement projects that we’d like to get to.  But just like our home improvement projects, we don’t have the time or the energy to make the changes that we’d like to make.  Not being able to make the changes we’d like to make, we get discouraged and give up.

Recently, an old idea has been reshaped and moved into a new discipline.  Kaizen – the Japanese word for continuous improvement – has long been part of the business world.  Used in Japan after the end of the Second World War, it is based on the idea of making small changes to a process.  Over time, the combination of small changes results in a much better process.

Personal Kaizen

Now, the idea of continuous improvement is being integrated into the personal growth industry.  For most of us, the problem isn’t that we want to stay stuck, it’s that we don’t have the time or the energy to make the changes that we’d like to make.  Not being able to make the changes we’d like to make, we get discouraged and give up.

For me, it’s exercise.  I really need to get on an exercise program that will build my muscle mass and improve my cardio condition.  The problem is that on the average evening, I have about four hours to eat dinner, clean up, write posts, look at stock charts, get ready for the next day, and occasionally (not very often), keep up with friends.

I can’t even imagine how a mother who needs to help with homework, get lunches ready for tomorrow and all the other “kid stuff” that needs to be done fits in any time for herself.

Itty Bitty Steps

The idea behind Kaizen is that tiny changes add up to big change.  It turns out that there’s an additional benefit to using tiny changes to create the person you want to be.  It seems that the brain doesn’t notice little changes – and therefore doesn’t get all worked up at the idea of change.

When you and I decide to make a change, there are lots of benefits that we see being the result of the change.  While consciously we often want those benefits, unconsciously, we are afraid.  Our brains are very good at worrying.  Sometimes, we’re not even aware of what we fear.  It’s a lot harder to deal with an unconscious fear.  I may not even realize that I’m thinking what if…

  • I become a health nut and I can’t have chocolate or ice cream or apple pie or…?
  • I get rid of the clutter and then I get busy?  How will I keep up?
  • I never see my friends because I’m always at the gym?

On some level, we know that we can choose to have an ice cream cone or catch up after the rush or skip a night at the gym to spend time with friends.  But, we’ve stumbled before and we know one stumble can have us tumbling down again.

With itty bitty steps, our “change” flies under the radar.  Our brain doesn’t consciously notice that we’re making a change.  AND, it’s much easier to find the time and energy to do something tiny.  Not only does our brain not notice, WE don’t notice.  It’s such a little thing – it takes almost no time at all.  It’s so small that we are afraid that it won’t have any effect, but it does.

What might you do?  Well, it depends on what you want to change.  Here are some ideas I came up with for me.  You’ll easily figure out what I want to change.

  • Leave one bite of my lunch and dinner on the plate.
  • Walk once around the block every night after dinner.
  • Spend one minute on the elliptical every night.
  • Read one page of an inspirational book at lunch each day.
  • Visit websites or blogs that make me laugh.
  • Change the question.

I’m hoping to become healthier and improve my mood before my brain can notice.  I welcome you to use any that appeal or ignore them all.  After all, they’re just itty bitty steps.

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