The Japanese way to make habits stick
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When trying to make new habits, a common reason we fail is that we cannot sustain them. We might start eating healthy or working out one day but after a few days, our motivation for the activity declines and we revert to the old ways. Another common issue in making new habits is that we set out goals too high. So high that when we quickly fail to reach those expectations, we fail. This is where Kaizen comes in.
Kaizen is a Japanese method designed to make your habits stick for life. It does away with large goals and instead emphasizes the little changes needed for a habit to be sustainable. To put this into practice, you should be specific about your goal so you can track it. If you were trying to go for a 5km jog every morning. Instead of getting up one day and just simply forcing yourself to exercise; which would require a lot of motivation and increase the chance of you failing in the long term. You should start with the smallest task on the way to jogging. This might be just having your running shoes next to your bed the night before. Once this habit sticks in after a few days, then move onto the next task. This could be just wearing the shoes. Once that sticks in, move onto jogging for 100 meters every day for a few days. Then you can slowly increase the length as you see fit. The goal is to do the habit every day, no matter how small that task is. Then to increase the length/intensity slowly.
So how can I instil confidence in you that this will work? Well, Kaizen is not like the plethora of motivation tactics that askes you to change yourself to fit the task, it instead makes the difficult task trivial. It alters how you think about the task. Instead of you seeing it as an unattainable summit, it reframes the task as a small inconsequential step. Also, because of operant conditioning, you tend to stick to the task due to the small satisfactory feeling you get for achieving the goal. Operant conditioning is when you get a certain feeling following a task; in this case, it would be the feeling of satisfaction. Whether the feeling is desired or undesired will determine how likely you are to repeat the task. So when you take the small steps, you feel satisfied for achieving your goal which makes you want to do it again.
If you’re still apprehensive to try this method, think about Toyota, which in the pandemic still managed to make over US$250 billion and has a strong positive brand image. Toyota implements Kaizen in their workplace by encouraging its employees to focus on the small changes which when implemented can have desired positive impacts in the long term.
So, the takeaway message is that you should make a specific goal and hack away at it bit by bit to avoid the overwhelming feeling that large goals can have.
Also, you should probably start now…