Most of us have made resolutions in the past that for some reason or another have never stuck. We make a drastic change in our life thinking that the best way to achieve our goal is to take an “all or nothing” approach. In the book “One Small Step Can Change Your Life”, Dr. Maurer explains that making small changes in ones life can produce big results that last. The technique is called Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word, which is captured in the phrase, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step."—Lao Tzu. It simply means taking small, manageable steps toward your goal.
Dr. Maurer explains that we all have a fight or flight mechanism that is activated when we encounter something new. We have come to express this as stress. Dr. Maurer says this is actually a form of fear, and if the fear of change is too great, change will not occur. But if we take small baby steps, we do not engage the fight or flight mechanism and eventually our brain comes to accept the gradual change.
This book has many techniques in it that can help you reach your goals. One technique that really stands out for me is the technique of asking yourself small questions. A lot of the times when we decide to work on a problem or a goal we tend to ask ourselves large questions like “how can I get thin” or “what new product is going to make me a million dollars”. By doing this we suppress creativity and shut down communication to the cortex part of the brain, which is the thinking part of our brain. By asking ourselves smaller questions we keep that fight or flight response at bay, which reduces our stress levels and let’s the creativity flow. Examples of smaller questions is “what is one small step I could take towards reaching my goal?” or “if I was guaranteed not to fail what would I be doing differently?”
Kaizen can change bad habits: I personally have used the Kaizen method in the past and didn’t know it. I was a smoker for 10 years and got to a point where I really wanted to quit. I tried everything from the cold turkey approach to taking up chewing tobacco in hopes it would cut the cravings while I quit. Nothing worked and I always started up again. What actually made quitting stick was gradually weaning myself off cigarettes. I just started slowly cutting cigarettes out of my smoking routine. Instead of a pack a day I smoked 3 quarters of pack. I would do that for a week then I would did half a pack a day for a week until I was down to only a couple a day. At this point it was VERY easy to quit.
The Kaizen approach has really opened my eyes to some of the reasons why I’ve not stuck with certain goals in the past. It has also shown me the steps that can lead to my success and how to make it through the overwhelming feeling of change by taking smaller steps, asking smaller questions and gradually implementing change in my life.