Be Playful

Change Your Life with Kaizen

Posted on: 15 April 2008

Photo by Linda N.

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous, incremental improvements. In this post I outline some of the theory behind Kaizen, and explain how implementing Kaizen has changed my life. I hope this will encourage you to think about your life and act upon any changes that you believe are necessary.

Because of living the kaizen philosophy I have two writing jobs, am getting up earlier, eating healthily, exercising on a regular basis, and living my dreams. Following the kaizen philosophy, you too can live your dreams.

The Kaizen Philosophy

The word kaizen is made up of the Japanese words kai (change) and zen (good).

Kaizen is a way of life. Those who follow the path of kaizen seek continual improvements in all aspects of their life, from career, to family, to leisure activities.

Kaizen is about making lots of small changes that build up to take you where you want to be in life. It is a playful philosophy because it is about embracing life with all your being, living life to the full.

The Continual Tipping Point


Photo by HaPe Gera

According to chaos theory, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the world can cause a tropical rain storm on the other side of the world. The trouble is, it’s impossible to predict which butterfly’s wings will cause a storm.

The small movement that does cause the storm is what Malcolm Gladwell calls the Tipping Point. I’m sure that you can think of tipping points in your personal history – moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but ended up changing the course of your life.

Kaizen is an attempt to create more of these moments. It involves making a conscious decision to gently but resolutely push constantly at your boundaries and expand your horizons. It turns your life into a continual tipping point in which you take the general direction of your life into your own hands, whilst being able to spot and make the most of the moments when tipping point opportunities come your way.

The Ingredients of Successful Kaizen

For kaizen to work, two key ingredients are required. The first ingredient is thoughtful reflection. The second ingredient is massive action.

Thoughtful reflection involves working out your goals and your values. It means sitting down and thinking about your life. In terms of goals, think both long term dreams and short term ambitions. Work out where you would ideally be within 10 years, 5 years and 1 year. Then break that down into what you can do towards those dreams in the next three months. What about in the next month, and the next week. What can you do within the next 24 hours? The most important thing you can do within the next 24 hours is set aside a period to sit down and think about your goals.

Remember, Kaizen is about changing things slowly in small, manageable chunks. Don’t try to change everything at once, or you are very likely to become disheartened and give up altogether.

Massive Action means acting on your goals and dreams. Having worked out what you need to do, do it! Without action, you stay stuck where you are.

Two ideas have been hugely helpful for me in making sure I commit to massive action. The first is making sure I don’t take too much on. This is especially difficult for me, as I find it all too easy to take too much on. I love to start new projects before current projects are finished, and I often say yes to things without considering whether or not I have time to see through the commitment. It’s been hugely helpful for me to make myself focus on one small change at a time.

The second idea is the 30-day trial. Commit to trying any changes for 30 days. If after 30 days they work for you, great, you can continue. If you realise that it’s not for you, you can give it up then. Trialling for 30 days gives you time to get through the difficult beginnings, knowing that you can give up in the future if it continues being hard.

How Kaizen has Changed My Life

I’d like to give a few examples of how the kaizen philosophy has changed my life, to inspire you and give you ideas of things you could change.

Over the past six months I have started waking up on week days at 6am. I made this change gradually, in small increments of 30 minutes. I love having the extra time in the mornings, and it has given me more energy throughout the day. I used to struggle to get up before 8.30am and be tired by 4pm.

I have also started eating more healthily and exercising on a weekly basis. This is something I am still working on, but for someone who never used to exercise, it’s definitely a start.

Another change I have made is in writing essays for university. I now organise quotes using the tiddlywiki software. The first essay I handed in using this method received a mark almost 10% higher than any previous essays.

Finally, I carry a creative notebook with me everywhere to note down any inspirations I have in the day, as well as my to-do list. I’m now much more organised, and I even have a clear desk!

Future Changes

Each Monday on I am going to publish a post with my kaizen change for the week. This week I am going to write and publish a blog post every day.

Your Thoughts

What have been the tipping point moments in your life? What small changes will you be making towards your dreams? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


9 Responses to "Change Your Life with Kaizen"

[…] week my Kaizen challenge was to blog every day. It was quite an adventure, especially finding so many beautiful […]

I’ve been doing this most of my life, so I love your post. I just Stumbled it. Keep up the great work!


Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to look through my blog. I’ll be doing my best to keep up the good work.

What was the biggest unexpected tipping point in your life?

Thanks for the stumble, much appreciated.


The biggest tipping point in my life was a shift in consciousness when I was 10 years old. I talk about it in At Home In the Universe.

[…] week my Kaizen Challenge was to take time out every evening to write down the five most important things that I would like […]

[…] I want to get even better at waking up. This week, my Kaizen Challenge is to get up every morning when my alarm goes off at […]

[…] Change Your Life With Kaizen – the tiny way to make big things happen. […]

[…] Heppell puts it, Massive Action = Massive Results. You can read more about massive action in my Change Your Life with Kaizen post. Tags: […]

[…] I want to get even better at waking up. This week, my Kaizen Challenge is to get up every morning when my alarm goes off at […]

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