There is a word in the Japanese language, ’kaizen’ that roughly translates as ‘constant improvement’.
It’s a concept that many companies (including Trader Joe’s) have adopted into their work ethos with good reason. Kaizen is an idea, a meme, a seed with tremendous long-term value potential. Think of an oak tree. The entirety of a massive oak tree is all held within a tiny seed. Kaizen is just that – a word, a seed. But if you can absorb the essence of the seed, it might just develop into a beautiful tree.
The idea is an exquisitely crafted self-renewing concept that fluidly attaches itself to everyday life. It’s quite easy to fall into ruts and monotony in life, work and relationships. Repeat something long enough and chances are, if there isn’t much awareness, boredom will start to creep in.
After having embraced kaizen to my life, I’ve noticed small, incremental improvements. I notice I am able to be more present for longer periods of time. I feel less inclined to run up to my head. Instead, I find myself regularly going out of my way to improve life around me. Kaizen helped me see (and understand) what was so obvious all along: that the world around me is a creation of my inner reality. Everything around me is reflecting my inner states. If my house is messy it tends to be related to me feeling messy inside. When I began to adopt a zen minimalist-inspired attitude, the clutter around me began to dissolve!
Continuous improvement should be a lesson all children are taught to retain early on. Children are natural innovators. They have no box yet to limit their imagination. But somewhere on the path to adulthood we were made to believe that finding a ‘box’ was necessary for us to develop an identity. We can turn to our most innovative thinkers and artists to see their hunger for innovation.
Change is the one constant in life. And kaizen embraces that reality, while allowing us to retain some level of control in ourselves. Kaizen teaches us that we have the power to improve ourselves, to be the captains of our ships, so that we can sail to where we want to go, instead of being carried by the currents.
May we have constant improvement in our lives. May we be the masters of our reality, so that nothing surprises us or throws us off course.