“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”
~ John Wooden
I do love the wisdom of John Wooden! What he says about life and basketball, I relate to life and ballet. No matter what your passion …be it ballet, basketball, or anything else in life John Wooden’s wisdom is brilliant.
Many of us have inadvertently set ourselves up to fail by striving for big goals without putting small steps in place to reach those goals.
When you set smaller more realistic goals, it is much easier to succeed at them. Small steps to success give you the feeling of achievement. Over time your small continuous steps will yield your desire. Small steps work!
Each time I see an improvement in my dancing, I think of how “kaizen” ballet actually is. There’s no way to magically leap through the air in a full split with only a few months of practice. It takes working the splits every day and getting them a little bit better; getting the knees a little bit straighter; getting the feet a little more arched. Then it takes practicing daily to get that shape to happen off of the ground and in the air.
Small continuous improvements made consistently, that’s the magic of kaizen.
Below are eight steps you can do to take your dreams and goals and apply the kaizen way.
8 Steps to Living Personal Kaizen
1. Break Down Your Questions – Dream as big as you wish, but break it down to small questions and avoid the “ BUT HOW.” Ask yourself questions like, “What is the first thing I can do to…?” or “Can I spend a few minutes daily doing…?” Asking small questions helps you find the next steps to take; the ones that bring your closer to your goals. You may not how you’ll get there, or how it will happen. But you can find smaller answers, such as a step that’s in the direction of your overall goals. Allow the path to be created along the way.
2. Make time – I’ve come to learn that there never seems to be time, even for the retired. So look at where you can realistically make a section of time and then discipline yourself to make this important appointment with yourself and do only that thing you said you would. Much like saving money, don’t wait to see what’s left over and save that, there may be nothing left. Budget your resources in advance.
3. Keep it positive – It is imperative to have a positive perspective. Although it may not be “natural” for you, it’s worth the discipline to cultivate it into a habit!. The journey of small steps can feel, well… small. This can mean we feel like “we’ll never get there” or “it’s so far away.” So every once in a while take a look back at how far you’ve come. Remind yourself that small steps in the desired direction lead you to your goal; sitting around just dreaming or talking about them will not get you there. When you’re not feeling positive, reach for gratitude and celebrate your successes. It is imperative you find a way to commit to keeping positive along your journey. In the end you’ll discover how much more fun the journey would have been if you had been positive and found ways to enjoy it.
4. Reframe Fear – Big goals. Big dreams tend to bring about fear and doubt. Taking small steps helps to move past the fear more easily. It may sound easier than it is to do, but, turn fear into excitement. Go into your affirmations “I’m so excited about…” “This is incredible – I’m walking right into opportunity …..” Reframe the fear and turn it into something positive and useful.
5. Reward Yourself – Set mile markers and reward your accomplishments. Maybe you went to the gym for five days in a row, or you saved an additional hundred dollars this month, or you made 20 phone calls ….. set a doable mini goal that’s part of your overall road-map and reward yourself for achieving your goals. The rewards should be appropriate to the goal, meaning that if you are trying to eat healthier, rewarding yourself with a chocolate cake might be a bad idea. If you’re rewarding yourself for saving money, I wouldn’t recommend the reward being that you spend it.
6. Break down the goal – Break it down from general to specific. Outline small steps you can take to take to implement it. You don’t need to create your master plan or have all the details figured out, begin with the broad strokes. If you’re wanting to start working for yourself, it’s okay if you haven’t figured out all your services and pricing yet, just start putting yourself out-there and you’ll adjust and grow along the process.
7. Be consistent - If you land on “pause” and mess-up the process, just start up again and be kind to yourself. We are humans, not machines.
8. Visualize – See yourself achieving your goal – and visualize yourself achieving your small steps. The more your mind sees it, the more likely you will take action and follow through.
Don’t try to perfect your plan before taking action. No matter how perfect your plan; it will undergo change along the way. Succeed by approaching your goal in small chunks, or steps.
The longer you stay in inaction, the more chance fear has to grow and inertia takes over. So keep moving!
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step” - Chinese Proverb