The unfettered mind: motivate yourself like a samurai

When we think about motivation, personal growth, and even productivity, we usually visualize colossal changes in both attitude and personality. There's this misguided belief that change has to be a massive seismic shift in either our mindsets or regimens, that we need to make big changes NOW in order to improve as human beings.

Such a drastic shift often leaves people exhausted, both physically and mentally. As creatures of habit, humans are used to comfort, daily routines - eliminate one of these programs, and a domino-effect of anxiety and stress suddenly occurs. This is why, for example, some people find it so difficult to quit smoking cold turkey - it's borderline impossible, especially when you've been doing the same thing for years, maybe even decades.

Thankfully, there is a way to boost both productivity, well-being, and personal growth at the same time. It's called "Kaizen," a Japanese term which translates - roughly - to continuous improvement.

What is Kaizen


As the name implies, Kaizen is a method for constant improvement, personally and professionally, through enacting small, incremental changes. Instead of envisioning one giant leap forward, the practitioners of Kaizen take small baby steps towards an eventual goal. It asks you to let go of assumptions, to be honest with yourself regarding the current situation, and be proactive about solving problems as they crop up.
Kaizen is based on the belief that everything is in flux - no matter how functional or efficient a process is, things can always be improved. This doesn't mean, however, that you should be a perfectionist and constantly look for mistakes. Far from it. Kaizen espouses the value of creativity, of experimentation. "Yes, things are going smoothly right now," you may ask yourself. "But what if we did something a little different?"

The Kaizen method has been used by industrial large companies such as Toyota, and was brought to the West by the esteemed organizational theorist Masaaki Imai with his book "Kaizen: the Key to Japan's Competitive Success." One of its core tenets is gratitude - gratitude for the people around you, gratitude for the actions you've taken today, and gratitude for the ability to change things as they come, using small, incremental steps.

Keeping a gratitude journal


Keeping track of the goals you'd like to accomplish, no matter how small, is the key to constant improvement. By writing down your thoughts, ideas, and creative musings, you'll be able to motivate yourself to go a little bit further than before. A gratitude journal is also a great reminder that it isn't the destination, but the journey itself, that counts.

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