Do you dread January’s New Year’s resolutions? Does it feel like just one more opportunity to let yourself down? This year try something a little different: think small, make only ONE resolution.
The Kaizen Approach to Self Improvement
Unless you work in a manufacturing business, you probably haven’t heard the term kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese quality management philosophy that directs continual improvement in all aspects of a business – from the CEO to the assembly line.
In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Robert Maurer takes the kaizen principal and applies it to everyday life. As the title suggests, Maurer recommends focusing your energy on taking small steps towards your goals instead of rushing and attempting to accomplish them in one big bite.
This might seem counterintuitive for the ADHD brain that can find it boring without going “all in” on a New Year’s resolution. But total immersion is hard to sustain and often leads to failure. We’ve all done it. Resolve to exercise 6 days a week. And we do, for the first week or so. But by the end of January, other parts of our lives have gotten in the way, and our “perfect record” is filled with holes. And by February we are discouraged and it’s easier to “forget” our goal than to keep failing at it.
Small Goals: Big Accomplishments
Maurer, a Kaizen expert, suggests setting small goals for yourself. Even large goals, like a doctoral thesis, can be broken down into a series of tiny steps that you take each and every day. Take piano, for example. Instead of trying to learn a whole piece of music on the first sitting, many musicians break down a new composition into a series of measures or bars. They work on these discrete units of music until they nail them. Only then do they move onto putting them all together. If you practice only one measure a day, you can still quickly learn an entire piece. But try to learn the whole thing in the first sitting and you’ll tire, your focus will lag, and discouragement can quickly follow.
Make Only One New Year’s Resolution
So instead of focusing on the big picture, try setting one or two small, achievable goals for yourself each day. Let yourself enjoy how great it feels to get those steps accomplished every day. How would the New Year look different to you if you just made one New Year’s resolution for yourself?