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  1. My husbands company encourages them to use this method to help people embrace change more since large changes are usually met with resistance among lots of the employees who have been working there a long time, but this way they can kinda sneak the change in there. We really like it, too!

    • I never thought of it as a slap in the 0-60 culture face, but you’re right. It echoes the whole living slow sentiment… which I’m all about, of course.

  2. I have been savoring January this year. Something I don’t typically do. I have been trying to really think about the goals I want to accomplish this year, and beyond. I wrote something similar recently, taking small steps to reach big goals. We want to get to the finish line immediately, but that isn’t typically how it works. Instead of getting discouraged, I am trying to list out the small steps I want to achieve in order to get to those big goals. Seems more manageable, and not quite as discouraging when I don’t hit something when I expect to.

    • Yes! I think it hits right into perfectionism—approaching goals gradually gives lots of room for messing up. Which is good for people who lean towards perfectionism, like me.

  3. Thank you for this post and reminder. I was first introduced to this concept/word by Tony Robbins in his book Awaken the Giant Within. In a world that expects “instant everything,” it is critical to recognize that the best way to create true change is via small, daily progress.

    This has been one of the most interesting aspects of parenting my three teen-age daughters. For them, there was no life before Google, Spotify or Facetime. Thus, when they want something, anything short of “now” is too long. Yet, while we’ve made communications and information nearly instant, we haven’t yet been aply to apply this to weight loss, sports mastery, or other more complicated skills. This is where the concept of kaizen is so important. It is also why (unfortunately), so many people have already given up on their audicious resolutions for 2015.

    • It’s like saving allowance for a toy you really want, instead of just asking for it outright. Saving up makes all the more delicious, right?

  4. My comment is on the 21 days to develop a habit. I have been on exactly 21 walks since December 30th (that’s a walk every day), and I would say that it really has become a habit. I was just commenting yesterday on how wonderful I feel since I’ve started walking, and how I really look forward to it. It helps that I listen to Dave Ramsey on my phone while I’m walking, which keeps me motivated to meet one of my other goals this year: financial peace. It’s a great feeling. I leave this comment in the hopes of inspiring someone else to get off the couch and develop a “habit of movement”.

    While I can no longer call myself a couch potato, I am used to going days and even weeks without any exercise (in the case of November and December, it was months). I logged all my exercise last year between cycling and walking, so it was easy for me to see where I needed improvement this year. I am so excited about this fresh year.

    I don’t think “kazen” is for me, but it is important to be intentional about our choices, which your post speaks to. Before last year, I would say I was almost completely sedentary. I set a goal to ride 1500 miles in 2014, and wrote a plan to make it happen. Looking over the results. I was proud of my achievements, but could see I had work to do to keep exercise consistent this year. I have a long way to go, but I’m well on my way to developing healthier habits.

  5. I’ve approached my 2015 goals by breaking them down into monthly/quarterly, then setting up mini habits to start the year off right. For example, one of my goals was to write daily, so I set three mini habits (along with my usual water drinking, etc. that I keep track of on my phone) to do one journal prompt daily, do a brain dump before bed, and send one card in the mail every day. So far, it’s kept me motivated and I find myself writing more than the minimum.

  6. I’m so excited to learn that there is a word for this! Several years ago, I decided that I wanted more strength (okay more firmness) in my thighs. I began doing 15 squats each time I went to the bathroom during my work day. At first I was so sore. Now, it’s been more than five years and I do 20 each time. My thighs are awesome!

    I’ve tried this with various other physical goals, now I need to try it in the areas of home organization and reaching out to others. Thank you for sharing this!

    • My friend Kat Lee does this as well, and I LOVE the idea! So, so smart. She would even text me randomly throughout the day and tell me to do 15 squats, right there on the spot. 😉

  7. I loved this post and it makes me excited for your books and Session 7. I am also excited for your upcoming book!

    Reading this post makes me think about my One Little Words over the years and how sometimes it feels like I have not made the substantial changes in my life that I wanted to (related to career/family balance, healthy eating, limiting technology, reading the Bible and praying…). However, I have done little things over time, and I am starting to realize that I have made some pretty significant changes when looking back to multiple years ago. With all those little changes over time, sometimes I forget how far I have come.

    Thank you for talking about the concept of kaizen. I have heard similar concepts before, but not this specific word. I think it is valuable for both reflecting back and looking ahead.

    • Hi Amanda—Fun to see you both over here and at Upstream! 😉

      Yes, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the forest from all the trees, so it really does help to look back and see that wow, I really have made progress.

  8. What an inspiring and practical idea. It is a refreshing concept to consider the value of the system vs the goal. Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Honestly, I only read about this idea within the past few months as well, and it was really eye-opening for me as well!

  9. Thanks for writing this! The examples you gave are so helpful for figuring out how this can be applied to my life. :)

  10. love this :) I am a Japan-o-phile (I’m sure there is a better word for that!) and I wholeheartedly agree that many people underestimate what can be done gradually. I’m glad to have a great word to sum up the concept.

  11. The idea of systems is often discussed in our household. Last year my husband read Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows and has been urging me to delve into it (as I desperately need help in this area). After reading this post I have greater motivation to read more about systems and implement more systems. My sanity requires it :) The idea of gradual change is lovely in my mind. The pressure is off to accomplish great change drastically and quickly. It is much more meaningful when we actually arrive at a place of change/growth that we have been wholeheartedly pursuing, not just rushing to accomplish some task that we “must”.

  12. I love this. This is pretty much what I’ve been doing without having a word for it. I set a goal to start an exercise routine – 5 mins every day. At the end of January, I’m planning to take a look back, see what worked, and readjust based on small changes. I thought of it as Agile Methodology (IT Project Management stuff for ya) for the body. Kaizen is way better! Great post.

  13. i love that there’s a word for this, as it is how I decided to tackle this new year. Slowly, surely, steadily, I will achieve my goals and not procrastinate getting them done. I have broken them into baby steps, set aside 15 minutes a day to tackle them, and already I have two credit cards paid off next month, one pantry cabinet cleaned out, and my fridge almost cleaned out (with fridge coasters!). What a timely post – I love it when life is blending together!

  14. I love this!!! I finally realized that if I set impossible goals, I will never reach them! I will never work out every day, or eat perfectly every day, but little by little I can make better choices for myself. I can weed my yard little by little, one bucket at a time and see the slow progress instead of looking at all the weeds and lamenting that I don’t have 5 hours to whip it into shape. Like others have mentioned, I love that there is a word for it. I had no idea!

  15. This is a timely and timeless post. I love the word for the lifestyle I’ve been embracing – slow deliberate change. It’s totally worth trying to accomplish something great when I take the time to break it down into incremental steps. One degree of change at a time. I feel like it also adds credibility to the transformation too. Only if I’m patient enough though.

  16. Hi, I’m very new to joining conversations on a blog. Just started your course Tsh, Paddle Upstream and getting very muddled with technology. However, on ‘kasen’ I think that it definitely builds confidence in your ability to achieve skills and changes. I’m finding that there are so many things I want to learn and achieve. But …I don’t know where to start. This frustration brought me to realising that I needed to declutter and find focus. As I am well over 50 and gradually overcoming health issues, I feel this urge to do so much. There is so much to enjoy in activity but there is a limit to how much I can do in a day. Sometimes I just feel like isolating myself for a long time to get things done but then I realise that I probably wouldn’t!