Personal Kaizen – The Art of Making It Happen!

by Aileen

avenue of progress “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

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy | Treatment Talk July 5, 2012

Great suggestions, Aileen. Any problem or goal is more easily achieved when broken down. I love your idea to reward yourself. We do need to celebrate each milestone to help us continue moving forward. Thank you for a great post.
Cathy | Treatment Talk´s last [type] ..Treatment Talk Monthly Message – June 2012


Aileen July 6, 2012

Thank you Cathy :)
I can easily forget to rewards my small successes because I’m still more like a work horse that just keeps going. Rewarding ourselves and our small successes does help keep us from getting burned out – and it keeps joy in the process. Rewarding ourselves helps us to enjoy the journey and not just work through it .


Jessie April 21, 2014

Shoot, who would have thhugot that it was that easy?


Carolyn Hughes July 6, 2012

Wonderful motivational post with some good ideas to get where I need to go. Love this quote -“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step” because it’s so true that if I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and I will get there.
Thanks Aileen :)
Carolyn Hughes´s last [type] ..Enjoy life’s precious journey.


Aileen July 6, 2012

Hi Carolyn. It does take inner motivation to keep us making those continuous steps – but that’s just a matter of learning how to self motivate :)
It’s such an awesome feeling to achieve something we’ve worked for that at one time seemed so big & far away. So important to stop and take a look back periodically and really see how far our small steps have taken us :) That’s some real motivation to keep on going :)


Angela Artemis|Powered by Intuition July 6, 2012

Dear Aileen,
This is an article chock full of great tips for us to use to “make it happen.” The principles of “kaizen” really do make it possible to create a goal but, not get overwhelmed by the process.
I too love the quote – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.”

Just putting one foot in front of the other and thinking about what must be done today instead of the entire process makes it doable – and before you know it you will have arrived!
Thank you!
Angela Artemis|Powered by Intuition´s last [type] ..The Secret to Reading, Following and Creating Synchronicity and Signs


Aileen July 6, 2012

“Just putting one foot in front of the other and thinking about what must be done today instead of the entire process ” also helps us have time & mental space to check in with our intuition and see if we need to make a change, or an adjustment. :) It’s nearly impossible to stop and connect with intuition mid leap :)


Fran Sorin July 6, 2012


A great inspirational/informational article. I love the way you discussed strategies in doing small steps. Breaking down the goal into small, specific doable steps is such valuable information. Also, #1 hit home with me. Thanks so much! Fran


Aileen July 6, 2012

Thanks Fran :)


Vishnu July 7, 2012

Hey Aileen – this is a simple but profound message because it impacts every area of our life. IF we could just take the first step and do something, we WILL succeed but it’s usually taking that first step. to build habits, to work towards goals, to achieve success – all require taking the first step. Not having time as you point out is one of the biggest hurdles to achieving a goal or dream but isn’t that usually just an excuse? If we really wanted something, we’d make time for it. Writing and blogging is hard work and who has time for that:) But if we believe it to be important, we’ll make time for it and take small steps to make it happen.

That Chinese proverb is one of my all time favorites!!


Vidya Sury July 7, 2012

Love you, Aileen. Great tips here. :D And you’re living the “give more than you promise” credo by saying 7 tips and giving 8. Hugs!

Everything takes effort and action. We can choose to make it enjoyable and make it a happy journey or complain about what is not.. :-) ‘Nuff said!


Paige | simple mindfulness July 11, 2012

This concept is so true. In many areas I’ve given up on setting big goals because not achieving them is so disheartening. I’ve replaced setting goals with changing habits. This is a way of turning goals into parts of our lives and taking those baby steps every day.

Our lives are a culmination of our daily habits. This is why doing something big for a short period of time rarely delivers lasting results. But doing something small every day adds up quickly. This approach also changes who we are which is the ultimate way to change one’s future.

When I think of a big goal, I ask myself, “What would a person who has already accomplished that goal do every day? How are they being?” Then I work to do those things and be that person. The results are amazing!

Thanks for an awesome post Aileen!!

Big Hugs!!
Paige | simple mindfulness´s last [type] ..The Mindful Approach To Facing Your Fears


Theodore July 15, 2012

This post is really wonderful. I’ve come to discover that often time, people always choose to gather all the information about a particular task before even thinking of whether or not to start. It has always been said that it is better to start even when you don’t have all the info.
Aileen, i can’t agree more. Nice article


Galen Pearl July 23, 2012

Yes, that time part. One thing that has surprised me in retirement is that I still have to choose among options for my time. I really thought I would have enough time to do everything I wanted to do. That has been a tough one for me. So, as the Tao Te Ching says, I have to choose this and let go of that. For example, I am trying to decide now whether to continue with taekwondo. I got my black belt, which was a goal for the last several years, and now I’m in a bit of a slump. Do I recommit, which means making the time to practice, or let it go? Waiting for clarity.
Galen Pearl´s last [type] ..In a Heartbeat


Joshua Tilghman August 14, 2012

I like this post. Big dreams and goals do seem to bring fear, doubt, and depression in the end…unless we can maintain a realistic timetable and stay motivated to accomplish the little steps slow and steady. This is harder said than done. Why not set small goals first? Thanks for pointing this out. I habitually set too big of goals to really get where I dream to go. This post reminds me to move slow and steady. Thanks.
Joshua Tilghman´s last [type] ..Joshua, the Battle of Jericho, and Your Body/Mind Connection!


Galen Pearl August 17, 2012

Dealing with fear seems to be the theme of my life this week! Thanks for your wisdom.
Galen Pearl´s last [type] ..The Dance of Fear


Ralph November 2, 2012

Great posts! Love a good John Wooden quote! Those little daily habits make a huge difference. I like to do life experiments and I’m doing one that has to do with that very topic. Its a 6 month long experiment but I’m confident that the big goals will be accomplished. Nice blog you’ve got here :)
Ralph´s last [type] ..How to Escape a Dead End Job


Aileen December 4, 2012

Hi Ralph. Thanks for stopping by.
Wishing you all the best on your 6 month experiment!


Louise December 7, 2012

Thanks for this inspiring post! I’m gonna make it happen!
Louise´s last [type] ..What’s Holding You Back?


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