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How do you go about changing your life?
Do you do it overnight?
The answer, hopefully, is obviously a resounding “no!”
Changing even a single aspect of your life takes time, dedication, and effort. Humans are creatures of habit, and once those habits have become deeply ingrained into our psyche. This is a physical phenomenon that can actually be witnessed within the brain. We’ll get to that later in this book.
And yet despite many of us knowing all this intuitively, we still seem to think that we can make huge changes to our lives on a
whim. If you’ve ever told yourself that you are going to “start a new training program tomorrow” that involves going to the gym four times a week and eating half your current caloric intake… well then you’re guilty.
There is a better solution. It’s called Kaizen. This is the Sino- Japanese word for “improvement” and it has adapted to represent a specific approach to improvement. One where you make tiny improvements, take tiny steps, toward the goal that you are working towards.
As the old saying goes: even the longest journey starts with a single step.
And what is a thousand mile hike other than lots of single steps? When you look at challenges this way, anything becomes achievable.
In this book, you will learn how to take this concept and squeeze it for everything it is worth. Whether it’s your relationships, your fitness, your health, your business, or anything else you are looking to improve; Kaizen will help you to get there.
Get ready to change your life for the better.
Starting with just a single step.
Chapter 1: Why We Need Kaizen
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what Kaizen is and why it works, let’s first consider the alternative and why it’s so important. As mentioned in the brief introduction, the approach many of us impulsively make toward self-betterment, is to try and change everything all at once. That example of starting a new training program where you train four times a week and cut your caloric intake is one that a lot of people can relate to. Perhaps you have done something similar yourself?
The only problem, is that this kind of approach completely misunderstands human psychology, and the reality of our lifestyles.
Think about it. If you are currently out of shape, then it’s probably because you aren’t working out enough, and because you aren’t eating right.
But why is that the case? Chances are, it’s because you’re currently too tired and too demotivated to do those things. Probably you come home in the evening and you feel absolutely exhausted. You just don’t have the energy or the will power to exercise, and that’s completely understandable.
And so you expect to now all of a sudden pull this kind of energy out of nowhere? You think you can go from being too tired to work out at all and to being able to work out four times a week? And let’s break down what that actually means for a moment.
It means coming home from work and then getting changed into your gym clothes. You’ll then need to drive to the gym in the cold, shower after your workout and get changed, then drive home.
Then get your stuff ready for the next workout.
So that one workout actually takes more like two hours, which means you’re dedicating a whole new 8 hours to your new regime.
You realise that’s an entire working day? Including lunch?
You’re going from NOTHING to 8 HOURS?
Can you see the problem here?
Meanwhile, you’re also expecting yourself to go out in the cold. You’re expecting yourself to be organized the night before. You’re expecting yourself to run and sweat in front of strangers, and to miss out on your favorite TV.
You’re not trying to learn one new habit, but rather learn a whole bunch of new habits. While at the same time unlearning a bunch of other habits.
And that’s not all. Now that you’re burning 8 hours of extra energy, you are also planning on eating 500 fewer calories? You’re going to work twice as hard, while taking in half the amount of energy.
This is looking like a great plan.
As though this wasn’t already enough of a challenge, what you probably don’t realize is just how much your neuroscience is working AGAINST you in a situation like this.
Our brains are highly plastic. That means they are adaptable to change and can physically restructure themselves according to our behaviors. You might think that would be good news when trying to form new habits or lose old ones.
But in fact, it also works against us. That’s because the brain adapts hard to repeated stimuli. The brain adapts and changes shape according to a very simple rule: neurons that fire together, wire together. So if you repeatedly do one thing followed by another, then those two experiences become linked in the brain over time.
And each time you do those things together subsequently, you further reinforce and strengthen that link. The connections become myelinated, meaning that the tendrils are insulated and signals travel faster down them. They grow more nodes at the connection points.
Eventually, it gets to the point where you no longer have to think about the association. Doing A automatically triggers B. Changing this takes a HUGE amount of work, and in some cases is nigh impossible.
So to attempt to make this kind of wholesale change across multiple different habits all in one go… well it’s somewhat futile. That’s where Kaizen comes in. And it’s why this is such a powerful and transformative tool. In the next chapter, you’ll learn more about it and how to put it to maximum use.
How it Happens
At this point, you might now be wondering how this happens. When you lay it all out like that, it appears obvious that making gigantic changes to your routine would never be effective. If that’s true then, why do we still spend our time determining that we’re going to “change our lives starting tomorrow.”
There are a few reasons. The first is that it’s simply that much more appealing. Nobody likes the prospect of hard work, or of something taking a huge amount of time.
On the other hand, the idea that “everything can change” in a single day is immensely gratifying. And so it should come as no huge surprise that we can get caught up in this notion.
The other issue facing us is the media. Because of course, it makes a whole lot of sense for advertising agencies to want us to take a more one-and-done approach to our self-transformation.
Gyms want to sell gym memberships. They do that by telling us that we need to go all in or go home. They tell us that we should buy all the workout equipment, the expensive protein shake, the year-long membership.
Then of course what comes next is that we feel guilty watching the money come out of our accounts every month. While we get no fitter or stronger…