Book review: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen WayOne Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like the small steps the Kaizen technique recommends, this is a small book that is quickly read, all the better to start applying its suggestions for self-improvement.

Like the ancient expression “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” the Kaizen technique is one in which improvement is seen as a gradual process, where small steps lead (eventually) to big changes. The book covers several aspects of the technique, ranging from asking “small questions” to small rewards, small actions and so on. Each chapter includes tips and examples using patients of Robert Maurer’s.

Kaizen is appealing in its simplicity and logic. When we attempt major changes (think of New Year resolutions to lose a lot of weight or give up a bad habit or addiction) we usually trigger our brain’s fight or flight response, leading to anxiety and even fear. The body refuses to cooperate. The brain goes “Nope!” and suddenly that Boston Cream you swore you’d never touch has vanished from its plate.

Instead of going cold turkey, the Kaizen technique goes to the opposite end by promoting change through small increments, sometimes so small they may seem silly. In the donut example above (mmm, donuts…) you wouldn’t just give up Boston Creams immediately. Instead, you’d buy one as usual, sit down and then skip the first bite (Kaizen doesn’t tell you what to do with that bite so you’re on your own for that). The next donut skip the first two bites and so on. Eventually you’ll get to where you aren’t ordering the donut at all–and not missing it.

I’ve used this technique myself when I started running, adopting the well-known Couch to 5K plan. The first few runs were so brief (they were more walking then running) that it felt entirely effortless. How could I not continue? By the time I reached Week 7 of 9, it was the middle of summer, blazing hot and I struggled to meet that week’s goal–but I persevered, because I had spent nearly two months slowly building to that point and it wasn’t nearly as daunting as it would have been otherwise.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life is easy to read, easy to follow and lays out the case for Kaizen in a direct and accessible manner. I really can’t see how anyone couldn’t gain some benefit from adopting its technique for at least some aspect of his or her life. Recommended.

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