Here’s a quick post on why the Japanese manufacturing concept of kaizen is probably the most valuable lesson you can teach your child. A word meaning “continuous improvement”, or literally “good change”, kaizen principles call you to always strive to get a little better at what you’re doing every day. As a teacher and a parent, I find that focusing on kaizen is an essential part of my life that I try to share with others. I hope you will find the same in your own life, and please tell us about your experiences in the comments.
The Zen of Kaizen
Many sources attribute the idea of kaizen to manufacturing, healthcare, government, banking, and other industries. However, I liken it more to the study of martial arts. I’ve been training in karate most of my life, and now teach the art. When recently asked about the most valuable aspects of my training, I didn’t answer with health or self-defense. Instead, I realized that, as in most worthwhile pursuits, karate training inspires and demands that you never settle for a certain level of progress: there is always something new to learn. Even after training for 20, 30, or 40 years, karateka worth their salt approach training, teaching, and learning with an open mind and always strive to get a little better at different techniques, stances, breathing, and attitude during each training session. I am lucky my sensei imparted this ethos to me, and I hope to promote kaizen in my students and in my son!
How Kaizen Can Change your Life
There are countless references to kaizen in management and leadership books and blogs. Productivity experts promote kaizen as a way to get things done. However, maybe because my thinking is so influenced by Eastern philosophy, I see the concept’s potential to be much greater and all encompassing. I would go so far to say that life is not worth living without kaizen! Think about it: how many people do you know are the type to get fed up with life, the type that give up at any sign of struggle, the kind that compromise their ideals and desires, the kind that “settle down” and give up their dreams, the kind that are afraid to change?
Don’t be one of these types. Success and happiness–however you define them–are never achieved easily or automatically. Those who seem the most successfully happy are those that put in a lifetime of effort working toward their goals. And is the payoff achieved overnight? Never! If you want something in life, you need to stay focused and improve every single hour of every single day. Life lived right comprises entirely of two things: love and kaizen!
So if you feel dissatisfied with life, why not adopt a kaizen-mindset? Tomorrow, next week, next year . . . if you wait to start until then, you’re just wasting time. Think of how much you can accomplish between now and then! You may not reach your goal in a set time period, but goal-setting is just an illusion anyway. There’s always a new mountain to climb and a new vista to enjoy.
Why Your Kids need Kaizen
If there is only one thing my son learns from me, I hope it is kaizen. I could rest assured that he would always become a little nicer, a little more focused, a little more disciplined, a little happier, a little healthier, and a little holier every single day. Independently, he would seek out and enact all the little, incremental changes he’d need to live the life he wants. His efforts would always pay off because he could feel his progress constantly grow–if only a tiny bit. I truly hope my son learn the value of kaizen and that I can serve as a good role model of such an essential principle of life!
[NOTE: This post was previously published on another old blog of mine I recently discontinued. Sorry if you’ve seen it before, but thanks for reading!]