The Kaizen Way, AKA the method of making changes in baby steps. How can it change your life for the better?

New habits - small steps, big transformations
New habits - small steps, big transformations


The whole baby steps thing is all about how our minds are basically allergic to change. For our emotional brain, any change is like a red flag for potential failure, a threat to our cozy comfort zone, and a giant question mark. So, naturally, our brain tries to talk us out of taking on challenges.

But life, being the cheeky thing it is, doesn't care much for our brain's need for security and keeps throwing new challenges at us left and right. For me, the challenge was losing weight. For a buddy of mine, it was switching jobs and getting a promotion, and for Drama Queen, it was gearing up for the SAT. Big stuff, huge, monumental… and the number of things that can flop along the way and mess up our challenge is just as huge.

A huge challenge can surprise us at times.
A huge challenge can surprise us at times.


My brain responded in its usual style - "Honey, why bother? You'll just end up tired, and it'll turn out crappy like always." I had to admit it had a point, and I kept looking up stuff about taking small steps…

So, what's the deal with this method? It's about making changes so tiny that they're not threatening. Example? If you want to start working out but know you'll bail after a week of regular training, try a different approach. Start with one push-up, squat, bend… whatever. One repetition. You won't get tired, you can't say you don't have time. Just one rep.

Initial changes achieved through Kaizen tend to be minor and barely perceptible.
Initial changes achieved through Kaizen tend to be minor and barely perceptible.


"What's one repetition going to do?" I can already hear your outraged voice. True, it's nothing. It's nothing, so it doesn't trigger your brain's fear of failure. I mean, what's one measly push-up going to hurt?

But look at it from another angle. Suppose you do 100 push-ups over a week and then get bored… By doing one push-up a day for a week, you do 7 in three weeks 21. After three weeks, you up it to three push-ups a day, and now you've done 21 in the first three weeks and 63 in the next. Your brain still hasn't caught onto the change, and you're slowly building a new habit in your life. The minimum time to make a habit is four weeks, and you're already six weeks in and now increasing the reps to 5 a day, totaling over 100 in three weeks…

But the most beautiful part... you didn't give up after the first week…

Keep calm; you survived the first week!
Keep calm; you survived the first week!


Now - mindset. The small steps method is all about continuing. Not the end result, not the destination, but the journey. The small steps method is about building new habits we need without our brain putting up a fight. So, we set small goals only. We don't look too far into the future. Today matters, and maybe the next three weeks at most. What comes after, we'll find out later when we assess the changes that have appeared and decide whether we're doing 4 or 5 push-ups a day for the next three weeks.

So, we arm ourselves with patience and slowly, day by day, build new skills or muscles right under our clueless brains' noses.

Slowly build new skills or muscles right under our clueless brains noses
Slowly build new skills or muscles right under our clueless brains' noses


Now, a real-life example… I used to be really fat (230+ lbs/100+ kg, with a height of a dwarf, 5’1”/155cm). And I really wanted to run. Let's skip the discussion about the dangers of running while carrying an extra person on your back. It was dumb, but it happened. Naturally, my brain reacted in a very predictable manner: "You're too fat; you won't make it go back to your computer."

But I'm stubborn, especially when I really want something. Stubborn to the point of stupidity. I got myself a Garmin watch and set intervals - 5 minutes of walking - 5 SECONDS of running. And I started with three repetitions twice a week. Imagine the pitying look from my brain… and friends :D

Oh... I ended like that countless times :D
Oh... I ended like that countless times :D


After three weeks, I did 10 seconds of running and four repetitions. After another three weeks, I added an extra day… and step by step; I reached 15 km non-stop :D

How long did it take? Long… months, over a year actually to get out of intervals and indeed run those 2-3 kilometers coughing up my lungs along the way. How many times did I want to quit? A million… I hate the cold, and I trained through an entire winter :D

In summary, baby steps are the way to keep our brain blissfully unaware that we're making huge changes in our lives.

The Kaizen Way, AKA the method of making changes in baby steps. How can it change your life for the better?
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