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Kaizen: How to Build New Habits and Achieve Your Life Goals, The Japanese Way

Do you ever get overwhelmed by your ambition? Don’t panic. Here’s how you can achieve your goals with the Japanese art of Kaizen.
by Rob Gillham | Dec 8 2023

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything you want to change about your life, but can’t seem to accomplish?

If this resonates with you, you are not alone. A study by Reliable Plant found that only 20% of people achieve their self-improvement goals, and research by Forbes found that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail before the end of February.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to achieve your goals that doesn’t involve making the same New Year’s resolution every January, and it comes from Japan. Introducing Kaizen. Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese word and philosophy that means “continuous improvement” and teaches that success is found in small, consistent steps toward a goal. The principle began in Japan as a management theory, but now it applies to all aspects of life.

Sarah Harvey’s book Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time, explains it all. If you’ve been struggling to improve yourself, this simple yet powerful tool may be what you’ve been searching for. Let’s take a look at how it works.

The Toyota Way

In Kaizen, small, ongoing positive changes are used to create continuous improvement. This approach is usually based on cooperation and commitment, as opposed to top-down or radical changes. For automotive giant Toyota, the kaizen method was the secret to their success; however, it didn’t originate in Japan.

The Kaizen method was originally pioneered by the US government as part of the Marshall plan to help Japan restart its economy after the devastation of World War II. The step-by-step approach to change helped many Japanese companies become global corporations, most notably Toyota, and because it became synonymous with helping the automotive giant achieve success, Kaizen became known as “the Toyota Way.”

In her book, Kaizen, Sarah Harvey unlocks the potential of Toyota’s management technique and teaches us how we can all make major lifestyle changes using the beneficial methods of Kaizen.

Learn The Kaizen Way To Achieve Your Goals – For Free

Do you want to learn the powerful ideas from Sarah Harvey’s Kaizen, but don’t have the time? The Blinkist app can help. Blinkist gathers key insights from nonfiction books and shares them as 15-minute explainers you can read or listen to. Aside from books like Kaizen, there are over 6,500 titles to choose from across 27 categories like personal development, psychology, and entrepreneurship.

Blinkist’s library is so extensive it even has three more books about the philosophy of Kaizen that cover the topic from a management, personal, and business perspective.

“Blinkist encourages you to read more nonfiction books. The app contains cleverly written digests—called Blinks—where books are broken down into their main arguments.”
–The New York Times

The best part is, Blinkist has made its explainer of Kaizen free for everyone. Want to know what to expect? Below, you will find examples of 3 key takeaways from Sarah Harvey’s book that you can use to grow your habits and achieve your goals.

1. Start by analyzing your habits.

The first stage of Kaizen begins by making an inventory of your habits. Make a list of the significant sections of your life on a piece of paper. You should then examine all areas of your life to see if you are doing all you can to enjoy them. There will be different priorities in everyone’s life, but categories can include home health, career, and relationships. Ask yourself whether you’re doing everything possible to achieve happiness in each area.

It may be helpful to break up the category of your career into parts – such as research, administration, or networking – and write down what you love or hate about each.

When your inventory feels complete, you should choose a goal – or several. Find out what you really want by digging deep. After you’re done with that, write down your biggest aspirations in each category.

2. Your first change should be so small you barely notice it.

In her book, Sarah Harvey uses the British cycling team as an example of Kaizen in action. In the Olympics, the team had always done poorly, and they wanted to change that. Almost every aspect of cycling was scrutinized and improved, from the bikes themselves to nutrition. All factors were considered equally important.

As a result of these small “1% improvements,” the team won most of the gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Small changes like these are often hard to make because the rewards don’t show up right away. A bad habit, on the other hand, involves things that reward us immediately, so it’s easier to give in to it.

Consider adding one vegetable to your plate every week, for instance, if you want to eat healthier. If that habit sticks, you can add more. Small changes like these are what makes Kaizen a powerful method for transforming our daily habits.

3. Use kakeibo to track your progress and keep yourself moving forward.

The first female Japanese journalist, Hani Motoko, is famous for her style of journaling called kakeibo. Originally, she created it to help women keep track of their spending.

Basically, the system entails recording expenses as they come in and go out. In this way, Motoko taught, you can see how your financial goals are progressing. Also, you’ll discover which ones should be your next focus.

When you use a tracking system like Motoko’s, Kaizen works best. You will be able to see the barely noticeable gradual changes if you do this. Your progress can motivate you to keep going and show you additional areas where you can improve.

You can use a goal-tracking app or, if you prefer, you can get a physical notebook that you can fill out and check off which days you accomplish your goals on. Remember to look back at what you have accomplished at the end of each month. If you do this, you can pinpoint what you would like to change in the next month. You can then adjust your habit tracker according to your new monthly goals.

Get More Ideas From Kaizen with Blinkist

Is that everything? Far from it. In Sarah Harvey’s book there are many more key ideas from Kaizen waiting to be learned, and Blinkist offers its explainer of the book completely free. Here’s how the Blinkist app works.

A Book Explained in 15 Minutes

Kaizen Blink
Improving yourself with incremental changes has never been easier, thanks to the Blinkist app. Its award-winning and eye-catching design was chosen to make continuous learning fun and enjoyable.

Blinkist presents powerful ideas, in short, 15-minute explainers for nonfiction books like Kaizen. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the book through real-life case studies, actionable advice, and memorable metaphors. As well as reading and listening to the Blinkist app, you can learn while you commute, cook, or exercise.

“When we started, most apps were for social media or gaming. We wanted to do something different and build an app that would add genuine value to someone’s life.”
–Holger Seim, CEO of Blinkist

Backed By Science

Blinkist breaks down big concepts into easy-to-grasp ideas using learning techniques that have been proven by science to help us remember more.

For example, in the first section of Kaizen, Blinkist uses this metaphor for how powerful the Japanese productivity philosophy can be.

If you want to overcome a sugar addiction, you may hire a hypnotherapist who promises to deliver to cure your cravings. Even though it’s an expensive solution, it may banish your cravings right away; however, a few weeks later and the underlying problems that led you to eat too many candy bars will come back to the surface.

We live in a culture that expects instant results, so it’s no surprise that many health and self-help trends promise overnight success. But a much more effective way to transform habits is to take one small action at a time, repeating it until you get results. This underpins the Japanese philosophy of kaizen. Tweet

More than 28 million customers already use Blinkist to learn more about themselves and change their lives.The app has proven to be an effective tool to grow as an individual and enrich your mind.

Apple Calls Blinkist One of the World’s Best Apps

“Blinkist is one of the best apps in the world.”

It is no secret that Apple loves Blinkist. The tech giant named Blinkist one of the best apps of all time and one of the top 20 apps for lifelong learning. Even Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is a fan. As part of his visit to Blinkist’s office in Berlin, he got to know the team behind the app and praised their work.

28 Million Users Love Blinkist

In addition to Apple, Forbes, The New York Times, and TechCrunch have praised Blinkist. The app has also been recognized by the United Nations and Google with major awards. The app has also been recognized by the United Nations and Google with major awards.

“As a productivity coach and one of the lifelong learners, I can’t tell you how happy I was to find Blinkist. If you enjoy nonfiction reading and are short on time, Blinkist will be your new favorite app.”
–Karen Trepte, HuffPost

But, most importantly, over 28 million users around the world love Blinkist. And they’re not shy about it: to date, the app has received over 104,000 5-star ratings and 10,000 daily downloads in app stores.

What are you waiting for? Check out Blinkist today and learn more from great books on Japanese wisdom like Ikagi, productivity classics like Thinking Fast and Slow,and thousands more!

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