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Lessons for Everyday Life- Kaizen

Monday Canyon Ranch Ride

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are."

- Max DePree


Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy—which may leave you wondering why we’re discussing it here in our Mind and Spirit section. Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy—which may leave you wondering why we’re discussing it here in our Mind and Spirit section. The term loosely translates to “change for the better” and is a slow-and-steady method of encouraging success in workplaces. In those that follow Kaizen, people at all levels of an organization—from the mail room clerk to the company president—use key fundamentals to make productive changes, improve attitudes and increase overall achievement. But the principles behind this practice can also be applied to your everyday life—your interactions with those around you, the attainment of personal goals and your quest to find balance and contentment in the daily grind.

“This technique helps the brain learns habits through small, daily steps we take to improve our health, our relationships and our work efforts,”

says Robert Maurer, Ph.D.,an expert on Kaizen who has guest-lectured at Canyon Ranch in Tucson.


In a Kaizen-centered business, employees are broken into teams, each serving as the expert in a particular area and being responsible for its role in the company’s overall success. This dynamic isn’t unlike a family—all members contribute in some way to the common good. By fostering this in your home—say, by encouraging your husband to “own” weekend dinner preparation because of his growing culinary skills—you cannot only distribute roles you may currently take on more evenly (making your day a bit easier), but grow feelings of validation and appreciation amongst your loved ones.


Staying on task is, of course, an essential part of the business. But remaining committed to your goals is just as crucial in everyday life; it’s easy to let your desires fall to the wayside when you’re not focused on and committed to carrying them out. Consider meeting personal milestones just as important to as work deadlines. And if it ever seems that the road ahead is too steep, help your inner drive stay alive by taking small, less-overwhelming steps that will get you closer to where you want to be. For example, if you are aiming for a healthy weight, start by committing to drinking water instead of soda each day. Your efforts will prove their worth quickly, keeping you motivated to keep going.

Quality Circles

In Kaizen business-speak, this term refers to people who are brought together to discuss and identify potential improvements that could be implemented. Think of your family and friends as such groups. Make it a point to regularly communicate with them about issues you’re facing that may benefit from others’ points of view (or simply their support), as well as anything that’s affecting the group as a whole. For example, at dinner, bring up the long list of commitments you all have and how you might be able to pare that down so that you can spend more quality time together.

Improved Morale

We all function a little better when we’re working—and living—in a positive environment. In a work setting, as Kaizen reminds, being acknowledged for a job well done can boost your confidence and drive.It’s no different after 5 o’clock: Congratulate yourself on your own successes—even the small ones, like going for a jog or finally cleaning out the closet.Do the same for those around you, too. Sharing positivity with others cannot only give them a boost, but improve your outlook as well.

Suggestions for Improvement

Businesses have long been soliciting customer ideas on how to make their services better. In fact, Kaizen followers know that the best companies realize that this kind of evolution is what gives them an edge. Create a personal “suggestion box” for yourself: Write down personal improvements you want to make that will contribute to your own success and fulfillment:

I want to forgive. I want to exercise more. I want to express my gratitude.

Revisit these notes every now and then as a reminder of what you asked of yourself—and to see if you’ve made the change. This made me think about another article I read this week about adaption in financial matters from Carl Richards which sounds a lot like Kaizen and wellness when you abstract them.


Carl Richards - The Difference between real life and an algorithm

Humans don’t fit into an algorithm.

This is particularly true when we’re talking about humans and their money.

Because “Humans + Money” is a messy little cocktail that economists refer to as a complex adaptive system. “Humans + Money” is complex because cause and effect can only honestly be identified with the benefit of hindsight, and it’s adaptive because our interaction with the system changes it.

Try cramming that into an algorithm.

As much as we would all love a simple formula to tell us what to do with our money—and believe me, there are simple answers, and maybe they’re a good starting place—the more we try to fit the big money questions into a neat little box, the more we find ourselves saying “it depends.”

So what works better, instead? 

The only way to navigate in a complex adaptive system is through constant course corrections. From his experience, the steps look like this:

1- Assess.

2- Guess.

3- Act.

4- Repeat.

Now, keep in mind that the cycle rate for these steps is going to be driven by the volatility of your situation.

If the situation is relatively stable, you may only cycle through every six months or once per year. But when things blow up, you may be cycling through your financial decisions every day.

The important thing is to remain flexible. Humans don’t fit into an algorithm, so don’t try. Rather than looking for a simple calculator, just acknowledge the reality that life, markets, and money are messy and make yourself as adaptable as you can.

We hope you took something away from today and have a fantastic week with a new mindset and a better way to get into this week.

Be Kind, Do Fearless

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